Food and Behaviour Research

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12 December 2016 -Washington Post - It's time to get over our fear of dietary fat

Carrie Dennett

When it comes to dietary fat, what matters most is the type of fat you eat.

Contrary to past advice to eat a low-fat diet — which unfortunately contributed to overconsumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates — newer research suggests that certain types of fat are beneficial and necessary for health. But although we’ve theoretically left the low-fat era behind, it appears that many Americans have yet to fully shake off the shackles of fat phobia.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that, rather than adopting a low-fat diet, we should focus on eating foods rich in healthful unsaturated fats while limiting foods high in saturated fat and avoiding trans fats altogether.

That advice is supported by research showing that the proportion of calories we get from fat does not affect our risk of weight gain or health problems such as cancer and heart disease.

Although researchers, dietitians and food bloggers are now singing the praises of healthy unsaturated fats — whose sources include nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and fish — apparently that’s not enough. Results from two recent surveys suggest that many Americans remain uncertain about which fats to eat — or whether they should eat fat at all.