The study, published in the current (February) issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that a moderate-fat diet might be a better choice. Christine L. Pelkman, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, is first author on the study.
The dietary intervention trial involved two groups of overweight participants assigned to eat meals containing the same number of calories, but different percentages fat. The groups were monitored so that both lost the same amount of weight. After six weeks, those on the moderate-fat diet had a healthier heart profile than those on the low-fat diet.
Participants who consumed a diet containing 33 percent fat (moderate fat) reduced their cardiovascular risk by 14 percent, based on their lipid profiles, findings showed. Those consuming a diet containing 18 percent fat (low fat) reduced their lipid-based risk by nine percent.
Moreover, after a four-week weight maintenance phase, moderate-fat dieters maintained their levels of beneficial cholesterol (HDL), improved the ratio of HDL to total and non-HDL cholesterol and lowered the concentration of triglycerides, also harmful to heart health.
Low-fat dieters experienced an initial drop in triglycerides, but at the end of the study, these fats had rebounded, HDL levels were lower and the ratio of HDL to total and non-HDL cholesterol didn't change.
"We don't know very much about the effects of a higher-fat versus a lower-fat, weight-loss diet on the blood lipid profile in overweight adults," said Pelkman. "The emphasis has been on low-fat diets for both weight loss and for reducing the risk of heart disease.