Do Low-Fat Diets for Weight Loss Work?

June 28, 2012

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food labelNot so long ago, low-fat diets (and low-fat or non-fat labels on foods) were all the rage in weight loss. But do low-fat diets for weight loss really work?

The answer is both yes and no.

At 9 calories per gram, fat contains more than twice as many calories as carbohydrates or protein which both have 4 calories per gram.

On top of that, most Americans eat more fat than they should. So it was no surprise that experts once believed that if Americans cut back on how much fat they ate, they would also cut overall calories and that could solve the nation’s soaring obesity rates.

Unfortunately, the advice to cut back on fat did not solve the nation’s weight struggles. In fact, obesity rates still continued to climb even as low-fat and non-fat foods proliferated.

Why? Fat intake is only part of the picture. A person could eat a low-fat diet but still be eating too many total calories per day. Non-fat and low-fat versions of cookies, chips, and other junk foods may contain less fat, but they often contain just as many calories or more of their full-fat counterpart. Many people’s diets went astray because of this misunderstanding.

The USDA recommends that healthy adults over the age of 19 consume between 20 and 35 percent of their daily calories from fat. That means if a person (not wanting to lose weight) was eating 2,000 calories per day, that would be between 44 grams and 77 grams of total fat daily. Of that total, no more than 10 percent should be saturated fat.

On a low-fat diet plan no more than 20 percent of calories should come from fat. On a 1,200 calories per day plan, for example, the daily fat intake would be 26 grams, or about 240 calories of the daily total and no more than 13 grams of that total from saturated fat.

In short all diet plans — low-fat, low-carb, and low-calorie all seem to work as well as the other, depending on a person’s personal preferences. But what doesn’t work, at least for long, are fad diets, diet gimmicks, or quick solutions.

For any diet plan to work – and more importantly to keep any weight lost off for good – the calories in have to equal less than the calories out. In addition, the foods eaten need to be of high nutritional value, the person needs to be exercising on a regular basis, and they have to learn how to break free from patterns and habits that lead to weight gain in the first place.

While low-fat diets for weight loss can and do work, they are only part of the total weight loss success picture. Consider instead a comprehensive program, like the one offered at The Center for Medical Weight Loss. We offer a the real solution to losing excess weight once and for all, not simply cutting fat intake.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss




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[…] In order for a food to be labeled low fat, it must contain 3 grams of fat or less per serving, and for an item to be labeled fat free, it […]

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