Fatty diets need not cause long-term problems if you don’t eat too many calories

The old adage ‘moderation in all things’ seems once again to have proved its validity

This may come as a pleasant surprise to some people: it seems as if eating fatty foods is not as hazardous to our health as previously thought.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have just published a study in which they followed 18 healthy but slightly overweight men with an average BMI of 26 between the ages of 30 and 40.

The men were divided into two groups and for six weeks the effect of their diet was monitored. One group ate food in which 64 percent of the calorie intake came from saturated fats, while the other had food with the same percentage of polyunsaturated fats.

The study revealed that there were no negative consequences for the group eating the saturated fat diet – either in terms of fat in the liver and blood, or insulin-related problems, reports Videnskab.dk.

Coping well with extremes
Saturated fats, primarily stemming from meat and dairy produce, have been in the frame for some time now in terms of being bad health-wise, although studies have not been able to conclusively prove their negative effects.

More surprisingly, a number of the parameters that the researchers measured even showed an improvement after six weeks of the fat-rich diet.

“This indicates that people are actually well suited to different kinds of diet – and even extreme diets,” said one of the researchers behind the study, Lene S Myrmel.

No ill-effects in mice either
Simultaneously, Norwegian researchers carried out experiments and measurements using mice in which they looked at possible changes in the organs of the mice after the six-week period. No changes were found – either in the mice or the men.

Measurements showed that the participants were quick to adjust their metabolism to convert the fat to energy.

“Those men who ate food with lots of polyunsaturated fats had a better cholesterol profile, but the saturated fat doesn’t seem to have caused disorders,” said Myrmel.

However, the Danish researchers caution that there are severe disadvantages connected with putting on a lot of weight – whatever the food source.

Among other things, an excess of calories can result in problems with reduced sensitivity to insulin. So the message is simple: fat per se is okay, but eating too many calories is harmful.