Higher or lower?
Healthy eating guidelines can be confusing
Current UK guidance on saturated fats states that men should eat no more than 30 g of saturated fat a day, while women should eat no more than 20 g. Small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are recommended, while no more than 5 g of trans fats should be consumed a day. Official US dietary guidelines also provide an upper limit for the proportion of calories that should come from fat overall: between 20 and 35 per cent.
However, based on a report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in the USA, some experts are now suggesting that guidelines should be revised to remove this limit. The committee had concluded that “Reducing total fat (replacing total fat with overall carbohydrates) does not lower CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk... Dietary advice should put the emphasis on optimising types of dietary fat and not reducing total fat.”
Over the decades, fad diets have encouraged people to either restrict or increase the amount of fat they eat. Low-fat diets inevitably turn out to be high-carbohydrate. Meanwhile, high-fat diets like the Atkins diet famously advise dieters to “eat the hamburger and throw away the bun” to reduce carbohydrate intake, and the ‘paleo’ diet shuns virtually all sources of sugar in favour of meat, fish and nuts. Although there is no correct ratio of fat to carbohydrate, most nutrition experts would probably agree that it is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet that does not exclude entire food groups.Lead image:
Brandon/Flickr CC BY NC
- NHS: Saturated fat link with heart disease questioned
- The 2015 US dietary guidelines: lifting the ban on total dietary fat (2015)
- British Medical Journal: Robert Coleman Atkins
- Scientific American: How to really eat like a hunter-gatherer – why the paleo diet is half-baked
- Higher or lower PDF [PDF 84KB]