If you’re still worried that eating fat is going to make you gain weight, you may want to think again! Research has once again shown that healthy fats from natural sources do not lead to weight gain, and may even help with weight loss.
In fact, a new study published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology has found that people who ate a Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil and nuts, along with a variety of lean meats, fruits and vegetables, lost more weight than people assigned a low-fat diet.
For their study, researchers analyzed a group of just under 7,500 men and women between the ages of 55 and 90 for a period of five years. Approximately 90 percent of the group was overweight or obese. The weight and waist circumference of the participants was tracked, and they were split into three groups.
One of the groups ate a Mediterranean diet, and was told to cook their meals in olive oil. A second group also ate a Mediterranean diet, and was given supplemental nuts to add to their diet. The third group was told not to eat any fat. Exercise was not a factor in this particular study.
After the five-year study period, the researchers found that the group that had eaten the Mediterranean diet, with no restrictions on their healthy fat intake, lost more weight than the group that was instructed to avoid fatty foods. The Mediterranean diet group also accumulated less belly fat than the low-fat group.
This effect was found to be consistent regardless of whether the individuals were overweight, obese, or had type 2 diabetes.
On these results, the study authors wrote:
“A long-term intervention with an unrestricted-calorie, high-vegetable-fat Mediterranean diet was associated with decreases in bodyweight and less gain in central adiposity [belly fat] compared with a control diet. These results lend support to advice not restricting intake of healthy fats for bodyweight maintenance.”
In an editorial that accompanied this study, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist and cardiologist, takes issue with current nutritional guidelines that recommend moderating fat intake. He stated:
“They [the dietary guidelines] don’t have caveats with fruits and vegetables but do with fat. And this study shows we should get rid of that fear of fat.”
Dr. Mozaffarian also wrote:
“A handful of nuts may be 160 calories, which is more calories than a can of Coke, but that doesn’t mean the can of Coke is a better choice. Healthy foods are healthy foods, and bad foods are bad. It doesn’t matter if the food is low-fat or high-fat. This is a separate issue.”
This comment hits the nail right on the head. Certain types of fat, such as trans fats, have been found to be overwhelmingly unhealthy. However, fats from whole, natural foods, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados, nourish our bodies and don’t make us “fat.” These fats exist in natural foods for a reason: our bodies need them.
Saturated fat is another type of fat that has been long demonized. However, a body of recent research has found that this type of fat also does not deserve its bad reputation. When they come from whole, natural sources, such as grass-fed meat and dairy, organic eggs, and coconut oil, saturated fats can be very healthy, indeed.
Speaking of the Mediterranean diet, this eating style has been linked to a great deal of health benefits, along with aiding in weight loss. It has been associated with a lower risk of developing chronic illnesses in general, and may even help protect the brain from cognitive decline.
So, next time you’re shopping for groceries, or strolling through your local farmers market, you may want to pick up a few ingredients for a Mediterranean lunch or dinner. And don’t be so afraid of the fat content! If you’re eating real foods, and not the boxed junk, you’re doing your body a great service!