For decades we’ve been told the fat in our diets is bad for us – the source of all kinds of evil like heart disease and diabetes. But recently, fat has experienced a bit of an image rehabilitation. We are learning that fats may not be so bad after all. Some are even beneficial.
Still, the fact remains that fat packs a whopping nine calories per gram, while carbs and protein only have four calories per gram. It’s reasonable to wonder if increasing the fat in our diet will make us fat.
New research published in the The Lancet, Diabetes and Endocrinology gives us a pretty good answer to this question. The study examined the role of added fat in a healthy Mediterranean Diet.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is less about weight loss and more about establishing healthy eating patterns. It is based on the diets of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. They tend to be heavy in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. This traditional way of eating regularly incorporates fish and keeps the consumption of red meat to only once or twice per month.
This style of eating is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Most major medical organizations recommend this style of eating for patients who want to keep chronic disease at bay.
How Does the Mediterranean Diet Affect Weight?
The research in the Lancet included nearly 7,500 patients with diabetes or at least three cardiovascular risk factors. These patients were older and most were already overweight or obese. They were divided into three groups for the study. Group one was instructed to follow a lowfat diet, group two was instructed to consume a Mediterranean diet with added fat from olive oil, and group three was told to follow the Mediterranean diet with added fat from nuts. None of the patients were instructed to restrict calories or exercise.
These individuals were followed for five years, and changes in both weight and waist size were monitored. While changes over five years weren’t drastic, the study did show more weight loss in the groups with fat added to their diet than in the fat-restricted group.
These results demonstrate that restricting healthy fats for body weight maintenance is not necessary. Previous analysis of these patients have shown decreased risk of diabetes and heart disease and stroke in the groups with added fat.
How Does This Apply to Me?
Adding a little fat to your diet makes food more flavorful and satisfying to eat, and it increases the feeling of satiety or fullness with your meal. Choosing healthy fats like olive oil and small amounts of nuts or (no sugar added) nut butters can be an enjoyable and beneficial addition to your healthy diet.