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Fat Replacers

Concern About Fat Replacers

Do fat replacers encourage people to eat more?

A possible concern about fat replacers is: Can foods which claim to be reduced in fat inadvertently influence people to eat more? A study at Pennsylvania State University suggests they might.

In this study, women were fed the same yogurt labeled either “high-fat” or “low-fat.” The group fed the low-fat-labeled version ate more in a lunch that followed the yogurt than the group eating the high-fat-labeled yogurt. As a result, the group eating what they thought was low-fat yogurt took in more calories than the other group.

“It appeared that these women regarded the low-fat label as a license to overeat,” wrote Debra Miller, a doctoral student in bio-behavioral health and nutrition at Pennsylvania State, in an article she prepared for Weight Control Digest.

Still, reduced fat foods appear to be an important part of a fat-reduction diet, according to a study involving the Women’s Health Trial. The study, designed to determine the role of low-fat diets in the prevention of breast cancer, found that eating “specially manufactured” low-fat foods was one of the most easily adopted dietary practices for those who received prior dietary instruction. Avoiding meats and giving up fats as flavorings (for example, eating bread without butter or margarine) were among the most difficult practices to adopt.

In using reduced-fat foods, the American Dietetic Association cautions consumers to realize that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie-free. The calories lost in removing regular fat from a food can be regained through sugars added for palatability, as well as fat replacers, many of which provide calories, too. Consumers should refer to the Nutrition Facts panel on the food label to compare calories and other nutrition information between fat-reduced and regular-fat foods.

Many nutrition experts agree that, used properly, fat replacers can play an important role in improving adult Americans’ diets. But, as with any diet or food, they emphasize variety and moderation to ensure a healthy intake.

SOURCE: FDA Consumer magazine

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