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Nutrition Column

Blood lipids can rebound following a low-fat diet

The body compensates by increasing endogenous lipid production if dietary fats are too low.

In diseased individuals, low-fat diets that are in carbohydrates can often be problematic. While low-fat diets initially reduce blood lipid levels and improve initial lipoprotein profiles, over time the lipid levels return to adverse levels.

A recent study by Pelkman and colleagues looked into the effects of both a low fat and a moderate-fat (from monounsaturated fat) weight loss diet on serum lipid profiles. The subjects ate a reduced calorie diet designed for weight loss for six weeks and followed that with four weeks on a maintenance diet.

There was no difference between the low-fat or moderate-fat groups in terms of weight loss. The key for weight loss is the establishment of a caloric deficit rather than particular ratio of nutrients or the type of caloric intake. Contrary to popular belief, high-protein, low-carb diets do not work any better than high-carb, low-fat diets.

For health it's a different story. Low-fat diets are traditionally prescribed to improve disease profiles in heart, cancer, hypertensive, and diabetic patients. The above study by Pelkman et al. supports the latest group of studies. When you follow a diet too low in fat you get an initial drop in blood lipid levels but over time, and during the weight-maintenance period, the blood triglyceride levels rebound from the low point obtained during the caloric restriction phase.

This and other studies point to a moderate-fat intake, with the majority of the fat coming from monounsaturated sources, as being best for long-term disease control. This is particularly true for those not looking to lose weight or those whose blood values do not respond well to very-low-fat intake levels.

Written by Dr. Sternlicht for on 12.08.05