NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Getting Fat on Government Advice

September 6, 2002

For decades, federal government agencies have been handing out advice on nutrition. Now, it has been discovered, we have become a nation of fat people -- and the government wants us to thin down. Could the government's previous nutritional advice have had anything to do with it?

Yes, experts are coming to recognize. Its sermons on eating a low-fat diet have turned out to be a myth.

  • In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration and a coalition of 38 federal agencies and health organizations instructed Americans to reduce the fat in their diets to 30 percent or less of total calories.
  • Actually, that never made much sense -- because a diet of 3,000 calories including 30 percent fat provides more fat than one of 2,000 calories including 40 percent fat.
  • Moreover, dietary studies conducted here and around the world show no correlation between fat consumption and obesity levels -- but calories do count.
  • Since 1977-78, fat as a percentage of our diets has dropped by over 17 percent, even as obesity has increased by over 25 percent.

Spurred by the government's "Demon Fat" campaign, food makers began pumping out products low in fat, but packed with sugar and calories. Priding themselves on eating low-fat foods, consumers chowed down on bigger and bigger portions -- thereby stuffing themselves with more and more sugars and calories.

"The studies are clear," according to Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "As far as body fat goes, it doesn't make any difference where your calories come from."

Source: Michael Fumento (Hudson Institute), "The Feds' Fib About Low Fat," Washington Times, September 5, 2002.


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