"The effect isn't dramatic, like going on a diet. The research specifically looked at people who were cutting down on fat, but didn't aim to lose weight, so they were continuing to consume a normal amount of food. What surprised us was that they did lose weight, their BMI decreased and their waists became slimmer," Hooper added.
One expert explained why fat calories are the worst.
"Fat calories are more dense, and the fat that we add to food is usually palatable, increasing our desire to want to eat more," said Sharon Zarabi, a nutritionist and fitness trainer at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "So, figure you decrease your fat intake, which decreases your total caloric intake and [leaves] you less likely to crave and overeat."
Although the study did not differentiate between types of fat, Hooper's team pointed out that cutting down on saturated fat is the healthiest approach since it reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes.
"This means having low-fat milk and yogurt, cutting down on butter and cheese and cutting the fat off meat," noted Hooper. "Most importantly, have fruit instead of fatty snacks like biscuits, cake and crisps. And remember, this isn't a diet, so don't take it to extremes, but work out a way of eating that you can stick to permanently."
Commenting in the news release, study co-author Carolyn Summerbell, from Durham University, said, "A healthy diet is a way of eating that people can sustain over time. That's the trick, to find a comfortable way to eat that you can stick to for life, which helps you maintain your weight. Cutting down on fat will help."
Zarabi put it this way: "You are what you eat. Put the cheap fuel in, and you're left with low-quality health."
The researchers said more studies are needed to investigate the effect of reduced fat intake on body weight in developing countries, as well as in children.
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