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6 Risks of a Eating a Low-Fat Diet

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6 Risks of a Eating a Low-Fat Diet

How Low Can You Go? The Big Fat Truth about Low-Fat Diets
-- By Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian
SparkPeople Sponsors help keep the site free! The all-or-nothing mentality prevails in our society. Here GE's Healthymagination at SparkPeople though, we Cutting-edge healthcare technology know better. Moderation is Helping people live healthier lives our mantra, and we repeat it so often that most of us Unhealthy Myths About Soy understand the importance Learn the Truth Behind Some Common Soy Myths. Read the Facts Today! of applying it to exercise, eating and setting goals. Still, there's one thing that Low Cholesterol Foods Looking for Low Cholesterol Foods? See many of us fear so much Low Cholesterol Foods. that we forgo moderation and head to extremes: fat. The residual effects of the low-fat craze of the 1990s linger, causing many people to believe that less is more when it comes to fat.

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Being conscious of your dietary fat intake is definitely a good thing, especially when you're trying to reduce your risk of heart disease or lose weight. But if you take it too far, you could be putting your health in jeopardy. So how much fat do you need? For healthy adults, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 20% to 35% of your daily calories come from fat. Both SparkPeople and the American Heart Association take a middle of the road approach, advocating a 30% fat intake. Use the following chart (or refer to your SparkDiet plan) to see your

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6 Risks of a Eating a Low-Fat Diet

estimated daily fat recommendations based on these ranges. Recommended Daily Fat Intake Based on Calorie Needs
Daily Calories 1,200 1,300 1,400 1,500 1,600 1,700 1,800 1,900 2,000 2,100 2,200 2,300 2,400 Ideal Fat Intake* 27-47 g 28-51 g 31-54 g 33-58 g 36-62 g 38-66 g 40-70 g 42-74 g 44-78 g 47-82 g 49-86 g 51-89 g 53-93 g Too Low^ < 27 g < 28 g < 31 g < 33 g < 36 g < 38 g < 40 g < 42 g < 44 g < 47 g < 49 g < 51 g < 53 g Too High+ > 47 g > 51 g > 54 g > 58 g > 62 g > 66 g > 70 g > 74 g > 78 g > 82 g > 86 g > 89 g > 93 g PEN4564 "I want to thank you for this article. I've been eating under the recommend..." READY_FREDDY "I really liked this article. I'm recently on this journey & use the calori..." VGPETERSON "I have been so brainwashed to avoid fat to lose weight that I shy away from..."
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Sarah Haan Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics from Michigan State University. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food.

*20%-35% of daily calories ^Less than 20% of daily calories +Greater than 35% of daily calories Lower fat isn't necessarily better. Regularly consuming fewer than 20% of your daily calories from fat (see "Too Low" on the chart above) will put your health at risk in many ways as discussed above. A diet too high in fat (see "Too High" on the chart above) can also lead to problemsheart disease, diabetes, cancer and weight gain. Here are six health risks you're taking when you restrict your fat intake too far. 1. Poor Vitamin Absorption Eating a diet too low in fat can interfere with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Because these nutrients are fat soluble, your body needs dietary fat to utilize them. These vitamins are stored mostly in the liver and fat tissue and are important in bodily functions such as growth, immunity, cell repair and blood clotting. If you're not eating enough fat to bring these vitamins into your body, they will be excreted, and you may be at risk for a vitamin deficiency. 2. Depression A diet that's too low in fatespecially essential fatty acids, which your body can only get from foodmight hurt your mental health. Both omega-3s and omega-6s play roles in mood and behavior. They are the precursor to many hormones and chemicals produced in the brain. One study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders has linked low and abnormal essential fatty acid intake to depressive symptoms. Other research shows that, because fatty acids help to insulate nerve cells in the brain, allowing these nerve cells to better communicate with one another. People who are deficient in omega-3s may suffer from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and ADHD. 3. Increased Cancer Risk

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6 Risks of a Eating a Low-Fat Diet

Colon, breast, and prostate cancers have all been correlated with low intakes of essential fatty acids. Research has shown that a high intake of omega-3s slows prostate tumor and cancer cell growth, too. If your diet lacks healthy fats, you could be increasing your risk of cancer. 4. High Cholesterol and Heart Disease Low-fat diets also play a role in cholesterol levels and heart disease. When your diet is too low in fat, your body's level of HDL (the "good" cholesterol) goes down. This is problematic because you want your HDL level to be high to help protect against heart disease. HDL collects "bad" cholesterol from the blood and transports it to the liver for excretion. When those ratios are out of balanceand when your LDL ("bad" cholesterol) level gets too high, you face cholesterol problems and an increased risk of heart disease. Essential fatty acids, especially Omega-3s, can elevate HDL, improve cholesterol levels and protect the heart. 5. Imbalance of NutrientsEspecially Carbs If you're not eating enough fat, then you're likely getting too much of other things, namely carbs and/or protein. This affects the overall balance of your diet, which could lead to health problems. A carbohydrate-rich diet can inflate appetite and girth and increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. On the flip side, a high-protein diet taxes the kidneys and liver and can lead to osteoporosis. Both cases can result in nutrient deficiencies. The key is to balance all three macronutrientsfat, carbs and proteinto ensure optimal nutrition and disease prevention (more on that below). 6. Overeating If you're always choosing low-fat or fat-free foods at the grocery store, you could be shortchanging your weight-loss efforts. Many of these processed foods contain added sugars to enhance taste; often they're similar in calories to the original full-fat product. Research has shown that people tend to believe these foods are "freebies" and will even overeat them, thinking they're healthy or low in calories when they're anything but. Plus, fat helps carry flavor in our foods. It leads to fullness and satiety, which means you can get by longer on a meal or snack that provides fat without feeling the need to eat again soon. When that fat is missing, your appetite may get the best of you.

Considering the health risks of not eating enough fat, it is definitely important to include enough in your diet daily. However, not all fats are created equal. Foods such as avocados, canola and olive oil, almonds, tuna, salmon and flaxseed are all excellent sources of healthy fats. High-fat meats and dairy products, trans fats (hydrogenated oils), and saturated fats should be limited. To learn more about the best and worst fats for your diet, refer to the following SparkPeople articles: Fats that Fight Cholesterol The Mega Benefits of Omega-3s Reference Guide for Fats Translating Those Trans Fats

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6 Risks of a Eating a Low-Fat Diet

Just as eating too few calories can hurt your weight-loss efforts, a diet too low in fat can hurt your health, too. Enjoy a moderate amount of fat daily with the peace of mind that you are protecting your heart, brain and your body with every bite. Selected Sources Maes, Michael, et al. 26 April 1996. Fatty acid composition in major depression: decreased 3 fractions in cholesteryl esters and increased C20:46/C20:53 ratio in cholesteryl esters and phospholipids . Journal of Affective Disorders. 38 (1): 35-46. Fat. The American Heart Association. /presenter.jhtml?identifier=4582 (accessed September 15, 2009). This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople nutrition experts, Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian, and Tanya Jolliffe.

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