Dietary Fat: Fads and Fallacies

Dietary fat has long gotten a bad rap in our culture. Walk down the aisles of any grocery store, and you’ll see “low-fat” or “fat-free” prominently displayed on many labels — claims that are seldom made when a product is low in carbohydrate or protein. While the extreme low-fat craze of the 1990s[1] may be over, many Americans are still wary of eating too much fat or are confused about what types of fat to eat.

Trying to avoid fat altogether is unquestionably a bad strategy for most people, including people with diabetes. Certain types[2] of dietary fat are associated[3] with lower blood glucose[4] levels, dairy fat[5] and walnuts[6] (which are high in fat) are associated with a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes[7], and moderate nut consumption is associated with a significantly lower risk of death[8]. But as a recent article shows, many Americans remain unaware of the benefits of dietary fat.

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Published last month in The Washington Post, the article[9] notes that the U.S. government’s 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans[10] recommend getting enough of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, while limiting saturated fat and avoiding trans fat. Despite these recommendations, the International Food Information Council’s 2016 Food & Health Survey[11] — involving 1,003 Americans ages 18–80 — found that 39% of participants were trying to avoid fats and oils. More surprisingly, 30% said they were specifically trying to avoid monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — considered “healthy” fats by the vast majority of nutrition experts.

While 37% of survey participants said they were trying to include more omega-3 fatty acids[12] in their diet, it’s unclear whether most of these people knew that omega-3s are a form of polyunsaturated fat, or even a type of fat at all. In a separate survey of 1,020 adults conducted by the California Walnut Board[13], two-thirds of respondents agreed with the statement “fat is my enemy” — yet three-fourths also agreed that omega-3s are healthy and beneficial.

If you’re one of the many people confused by all the different varieties of fat, check out Amy Cambell’s short guide to the different types[14].

What’s your experience with dietary fat — have you avoided it, or thought that you should? Have you stayed away from certain types of fat, or high-fat foods? Have you noticed any relationship between your fat intake and blood glucose levels? Has eating more or less fat helped you gain or lose weight? Leave a comment below!

Endnotes:
  1. low-fat craze of the 1990s: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/diet/themes/lowfat.html
  2. Certain types: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/dietary-fat-blood-glucose/
  3. are associated: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/higher-fat-lower-glucose/
  4. glucose: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/diabetes-resources/definitions/glucose/
  5. dairy fat: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/dairy-fat-diabetes/
  6. walnuts: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/walnuts-may-reduce-type-2-diabetes-risk-offer-additional-health-benefits/
  7. Type 2 diabetes: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/diabetes-resources/definitions/type-2-diabetes/
  8. is associated with a significantly lower risk of death: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/nuts-disease-risk/
  9. the article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/finally-we-can-shake-off-the-shackles-of-fat-phobia/2016/11/28/ff70e1d0-b5c1-11e6-959c-172c82123976_story.html?utm_term=.8afdb45458c6&wpisrc=nl_sb_smartbrief
  10. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
  11. 2016 Food & Health Survey: http://www.foodinsight.org/sites/default/files/2016-Food-and-Health-Survey-Report_%20FINAL_0.pdf
  12. omega-3 fatty acids: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/diabetes-resources/definitions/omega-3-fatty-acids/
  13. California Walnut Board: https://www.walnuts.org/about-us/boards-and-committees/california-walnut-board/
  14. guide to the different types: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/facing-the-fats/

Source URL: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/dietary-fat-fads-fallacies/


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