Here's the lowdown on low-fat diets -- they're not
A Stanford University School of Medicine study
found that a low-fat diet that features plenty of
fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans is twice
as effective as a conventional low-fat diet at reducing
"bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
The study included 120 adults, aged 30 to 65. One
group (61 people) was put on a conventional low-fat
diet that focused solely on avoiding harmful fat and
cholesterol. They ate foods such as turkey bologna
sandwiches and frozen waffles.
The other group (59 people) ate a diet that included
the same proportions of fat and cholesterol, along
with plenty of plant-based foods in accordance with
American Heart Association
(AHA) dietary guidelines.
Over the course of the four-week study, both diets
reduced levels of total and LDL cholesterol. However,
the plant-based diet achieved an average 9.4 percent
reduction in LDL, compared with a 4.6 percent LDL
decrease achieved by the conventional low-fat diet.
There were no significant differences in changes
in triglycerides or "good" high-density lipoprotein
The study appears in the May 3 issue of the Annals
of Internal Medicine
The results show that people need to do more than
simply avoid fat and cholesterol -- they need to eat
vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods, the study
"We would really hope that people would appreciate
the new American Heart Association guidelines. Include
more whole grains and vegetables and beans and colors
-- not iceberg lettuce, but red bell peppers and carrots
and broccoli and red cabbage and the really colorful
foods. Those are all really low in saturated fat and
cholesterol, and they're really high in other nutrients
and phytochemicals that are good for you," study author
Christopher Gardner, an assistant professor of medicine
at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in
a prepared statement.
He noted that a plant-based diet isn't necessarily
a vegetarian diet, but does include a foundation of
whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and fruits. The AHA
guidelines recommend at least five daily servings
of fruit and vegetables and at least six daily servings
of grains, with an emphasis on whole grains.