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GeorgeGee's avatar

Could America's diet advice be completely backward?

Asked by GeorgeGee (4925points) October 25th, 2010

It seems that since the 1960’s, the more Americans avoid fat in their diet, the fatter they get. In New Zealand the per capita consumption of butter is three times that of the US:
And yet it has a 33% lower rate of obesity.
Could it be that avoiding fat drives people to gorge more, thus getting fatter?

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16 Answers

Winters's avatar

I’d say its all that artificial crap we stuff ourselves with.

marinelife's avatar

It has been shown that an extremely low fat diet is not particularly desirable:

“Dietary fat intake has been blamed for the increase in adiposity and has led to a worldwide effort to decrease the amount of fat in the diet. However, the comparative efficacy of this approach is debatable. Whilst short-term dietary intervention studies show that low-fat diets lead to weight loss in both healthy and overweight individuals, it is less clear if a reduction in fat intake is more efficacious than other dietary restrictions in the long term. Furthermore, the overall weight loss at the 12–18-month follow-up in all studies was very small (2–4 kg). In overweight or obese individuals who are dieting for the purpose of weight reduction, low-fat diets are as efficacious as other weight-reducing diets for achieving sustained weight loss, but not more so.


However, the overall increase in obesity in this country is due to more high fructose corn syrup and other sugars put in food to replace fat that was removed.

Lack of exercise.

Increase in portion sizes and plate sizes.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I’m not convinced that our diet advice is so bad, or that these statistics tell the whole story.

Although I don’t know “a lot” of New Zealanders, I do know some, and maybe they’re exceptional, but they generally seem pretty active. They’re always doing something that doesn’t involve computers or televisions. Granted, my known subset of Kiwis is likely unrepresentative, but what is life in NZ like for most residents there? I suspect that Americans’ sedentary lifestyles are more to blame than anything else.

That, and, as @marinelife pointed out, “large portion sizes”. Visitors to this country routinely remark on the portion sizes that they are served in restaurants… which I consider “normal”, because I live here and “it’s what everyone else is doing”.

We eat too much and we “do” too little.

YoBob's avatar

Bottom line is that it is not just about what you eat, its about how much you eat.

If you are consuming 4000 calories a day and the most activity you get is waddling back and forth between the sofa and the refrigerator, it doesn’t matter if those calories come from cheeseburgers or organic granola harvested by left handed virgins, chances are you are going to be overweight.

Of course, what you eat does impact your health in many other ways. For example, a high fat diet tends to raise your cholesterol levels and leads to cardiovascular disease, not getting enough protein can lead to anemia, not getting enough fiber can be a contributing factor in colon cancer, etc…

If, on the other hand, you are consuming 1000 calories per day and are active, you are likely to be skinny regardless of what form those calories com in.

Austinlad's avatar

Not getting fat is only half about eating right… the other half is exercising right. For me, both have gotten more difficult as I’ve gotten older.

kevbo's avatar

My God, you have to read this. They drink more alcohol than any of us and run 100 miles at a stretch in sandals made of tire treads.

YoBob's avatar

@kevbo Apparently the new generation of Tarahumara aren’t as tough as the previous ones. My parents went to copper canyon in the 1970’s just before the railroad brought civilization a bit closer. Back in those days they did it bare footed. Apparently civilization has brought them sandals.

(technically my parents were missionaries, but in actuality my father was/is a dentist and went down to do some volunteer work fixing the native’s teeth. My mother joked, and perhaps it was more truth that poetry, that she was the first white woman to actually go to the bottom of the canyon and live with the natives)

thekoukoureport's avatar

My family and I have a high fat diet. In that I use butter to cook with, have plenty of starches with either pasta or rice or potato daily and a vegetable and or salad for dinner every night. We have snacks of all kinds in the house but no soda. Fruit is always available but not eaten unless forced. Now with all that being said my children and I are in great shape, My cholesterol is perfect, blood pressure, weight etc. My wife on the other hand struggles with her weight, the difference? We are active while my wife leads a sendentary lifestyle.(accountant) When my wife exercises regularly she brings her weight down, when she doesn’t well you know.

Yes we have fast food from time to time, but it is a treat not a routine. It’s time we got back in the kitchen and started cooking again.

YARNLADY's avatar

I have seen recent studies comparing control groups with several different diets, and different exercise routines, and they all show that proper exercise apparently means much more than the diet.

Katexyz's avatar

The dietary advice given by the FDA is not for weight loss, but for a healthy lifestyle. Remember diet doesn’t mean weight loss diet, it comes from Latin and describes a way of living. Eating a high fat diet means less to your overall body mass than a high calorie diet. @YoBob has it right there. If you are eating 1600–2300 calories per day and following the FDA recommendations you will be in good shape and very healthy.

In this comparison despite the three time greater butter consumption (even if it were a three fold fat consumption as compared to America) the fact that New Zealanders don’t eat a 2100 calorie McDonalds dinner (along with a 900 calorie Subway lunch, three 150 calorie pops through the day, 300 calories of Oreo’s for a snack, and no breakfast) keeps their body fat lower than ours.

flutherother's avatar

All those multitudes of fast food places in the United States must be selling to somebody and society there is so car oriented that I found it was difficult walking from one place to another as there was often no pavement and the traffic light system has no respect for the pedestrian. The result is hospital waiting areas with super sized seats and extra big coffins.

skfinkel's avatar

Yes, eating fat makes you feel like you have eaten something, and you stop when you are full. Thus, potentially eating less. But moderation seems to be the real secret to staying in shape.

Aster's avatar

I think we’d be ok if we just moved more. Just anything other than sitting around at a desk or in a chair. I mean, if weight control is the problem.
Golf should not count as exercise! lol

phaedryx's avatar

There are a lot of factors that contribute to obesity: age, genetics, diet, exercise, lifestyle, etc. I doubt it can be boiled down to consumption stats of a particular food (e.g. butter).

Seek's avatar

I’ve recently had to go on an extremely low-fat diet for health reasons. In three weeks, I’ve gone from about 140 lbs to 123 as of this morning.

I’ll tell you what – it’s not the fact that I’m not eating fat – it’s the fact that I’m not eating. I mean, when you have to count every single gram of fat, you learn there are a ton of foods in the average American diet (I consider myself an average American in terms of eating habits) that contain high levels of fat.

A single slice of Provolone cheese has six grams of fat. A tablespoon of olive oil has 11–14. Four ounces of meat can have 25–30 grams of fat. You can hardly find normal American food that doesn’t contain some form of fat.

So, when I’m out with my family, my son and husband stop through Mickey D’s for the odd $2 Happy Meal, I go without until I can get home and have a spinach and tomato salad with some fat-free dressing and maybe a little tuna. There’s a world of difference between the calorie content of a cheeseburger, fries, and apple juice, and two cups of greens, a tomato, and a tin of tuna fish washed down with some Coke Zero.

The down side is, the salad doesn’t come with a Han Solo action figure.

mattbrowne's avatar

The anti-fat campaign is pretty bad advice.

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