How Low-Fat Foods Actually Made America Fat

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In the second edition of the USDA’s Dietary Goals for the United States, published in 1977, Americans were advised to limit their intake of fats, substituting their regular fat sources (meat, butter) for complex carbohydrates and manufactured substitutes (margarine).

And just as low-fat, fat-free and “lite” products began cluttering grocery shelves with their fat-less promises and shiny packaging tempting grocery shoppers to pick the skinnier, chicer lifestyle purchase, obesity rates began to grow and eventually soar in the United States.

Avoiding fats has made America even fatter than before.

The percentage of Americans who are obese has been steadily increasing since the low-fat campaign began in the 1970s. (image: National Institutes of Health)

“The 40-year-old campaign to create low- and nonfat versions of traditional foods has been a failure: We’ve gotten fat on low-fat products. Why? Because removing the fat from the foods doesn’t necessarily make them nonfattening. Carbohydrates can also make you fat, and many low- and nonfat foods boost the sugars to make up for the loss of flavor,” Michal Pollan explains in Food Rules. “By demonizing one nutrient—fat—we inevitably give a free pass to another, supposedly ‘good,’ nutrient—carbohydrates in this case—and then proceed to eat…


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