But let’s back up a second. When and why did fat become such a big villain? As Allison Aubrey has reported, it started back in the 1970s, and with the first set of dietary guidelines for Americans in 1980. The message was: Decrease fat and you’ll decrease saturated fat.
Back then, scientists were mostly concerned with saturated fat. And indeed, the latest evidence shows that saturated fats can raise levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol. But demonizing all fat set off the fat-free boom, and a big increase in carbohydrate and sugar intake followed, which led to Americans becoming even fatter.
And, as Mozaffarian and Ludwig point out, another problem with telling people to limit total fat is that people end up eating fewer monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – the kind found in nuts, vegetable oils and fish – which are really healthful.
Now, it seems, the government has an opportunity to set the record straight on fat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services are now reviewing the committee’s report and will update the guidelines later this year.