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Low-Fat Diets are not as Beneficial as Thought

February 8th, 2006

Low-Fat Diets not as Beneficial as Thought

Fruits and Vegetables

Postmenopausal women need to do more than just cut fat from their diet to stay healthy, according to a new study.  Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues with the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Dietary Modification Trial conducted a very large scale study. 

They followed 48,835 women for eight years and found that “a diet low in fat, but high in fruit, vegetables and grains, does not significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.”  They examined the effect of a low-fat diet with the incidence of breast cancer. It was thought that a low fat diet would reduce breast cancer risk.


The WHI began in 1992 with women that had not been diagnosed with breast cancer.  About 40% of the women were asked to make dietary modifications.  These modifications included “consumption of a reduced amount of fat (20 percent of energy) and of an increased amount of vegetables and fruits (5 or more servings a day) and grains (6 or more servings a day).” The other 60%of the women were not asked to make dietary modifications.

The results showed little difference breast cancer risk.  Overall, 655 (3.35 percent) women in the intervention group and 1,072 (3.66 percent) women in the comparison group developed invasive breast cancer during follow-up.

A previous study found that eating too much animal fat may be linked to a higher risk of premenopausal breast cancer.  This finding came from the ongoing Nurses Health Study.  So do these studies conflict?


Jacques Rossouw of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Women's Health Initiative project officer said that waiting until midlife to cut the fat might be too late, as far as cancer risk is concerned.  His statement was reported in USA Today. The article also sites a Michael Thun, vice president of epidemiology and surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, who said the nurse’s study has switched the focus from total dietary fat to types of fat and weight.

There are a few other articles concerning the low-fat diet in this issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The other articles seem to indicate that a low fat diet does not cut the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease or colorectal cancer.  Each study gets their data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).

According to the journal, “There was no evidence of reduced risk for any category of colorectal cancer outcome associated with the intervention.”  The Journal also reports that the researchers found that the diet had “no significant effects on incidence of (coronary heart disease) CHD, stroke, (cardio vascular disease) CVD, or heart attack.”  There was little difference in levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and insulin between the women that followed the low fat diet and those that did not.


There was some good news.  According to the researchers there was a trend toward greater risk reductions in CHD in those with lower intakes of saturated fat or trans fat or higher intakes of vegetables/fruits.

The authors conclude “To achieve a significant public health impact on CVD events, a greater magnitude of change in multiple macronutrients and micronutrients and other behaviors that influence CVD risk factors may be necessary."

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By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:50 PM