Health & Diet

Eat Fat—Not Too Little, Not Too Much

By Lola Augustine Brown

After years of hearing that a low-fat diet is best for your health, we now learn that consuming a moderate amount of dietary fat lowers your risk for premature death. The news was among the findings of a major Canadian study published at the end of August in the medical journal The Lancet.

The international study also linked a high-carbohydrate diet with an increased risk for an early death. That doesn’t mean that a low-carb diet is better; researchers pointed out that their results showed that a low-carb diet conferred no health benefit. The upshot, then, is essentially what the wisest people have always told us: moderation is best.

Led by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, the study surveyed 135,335 people in 18 countries about their fat, carbohydrate, and protein intake over a seven-year period and documented the number of deaths due to heart disease, stroke, cancer, respiratory disease, infectious diseases, and other conditions. They found that when about 35 per cent of a person’s calories came from fat, that person had a lower overall risk of dying. Current guidelines recommend that no more than 30 per cent of our calories come from fat. And it isn’t just “good” fats—those in nuts and olive oil—that lowered risk; the researchers found that saturated fats—those in meats and dairy products—were as beneficial as unsaturated fats.

The PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) study also found that those who got more than 60 per cent of their calories from carbohydrates had a higher risk of premature death. The results indicate, researchers said, that getting 50 to 55 per cent of your energy from carbs and 35 per cent from saturated and unsaturated fats would be ideal.

Photo: iStock/colnihko.