Fat Substitutes and Health (2002)
Many low-fat products are made using fat substitutes. Are fat substitutes an effective way to achieve a healthier diet? The AHA recently issued a Scientific Statement on Fat Substitutes and Health. This advisory reviews the potential effects of fat substitutes on achieving the AHA’s dietary recommendations for fat intake and examines the potential effects of fat substitutes on health.
Fat Substitutes – Obesity
The advisory notes that during the 1990s, the food industry introduced more than 1,000 reduced-fat food products per year. Some research indicates that those who include fat-modified products in their diet have a better overall nutrient profile than those who don’t use any fat-modified products. The effects of fat substitutes on total energy intake and body weight, however, are less certain. Clearly, fat-modified products alone are not the answer to obesity since the growing rates of obesity have paralleled the growing number of fat-modified products on the market.
Fat – Portion Control & Physical Activity
The advisory notes that other factors that affect energy balance specifically, such as portion control and physical activity, are likely to have a greater impact on weight than the use of fat-modified products. If other strategies for lowering or maintaining body weight are not used, simply substituting low-fat for full-fat products may not be effective for weight control. In other words, eating 500 calories worth of fat-free cookies is going to have the same impact on body weight as eating 500 calories of full-fat cookies.
Fat Substitutes – Use Judiciously
The AHA advisory concludes “Within the context of a healthy dietary pattern, fat substitutes, when used judiciously, may provide some flexibility in dietary planning, although additional research is needed to fully determine the longer-term health effects.”
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