Study Finds Low-Fat Diet Won't Stop Cancer or Heart Disease.

The study found that women who were randomly assigned to follow a low-fat diet ate significantly less fat over the next eight years. But they had just as much breast and colon cancer and just as much heart disease. The women were not trying to lose weight, and their weights remained fairly steady. But their experiences with the diets allowed researchers to question some popular notions about diet and obesity.

There is a common belief that Americans get fat because they eat too many carbohydrates. The idea is that a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet leads to weight gain, higher insulin and blood glucose levels, and more diabetes, even if the calories are the same as in a higher-fat diet. That did not happen here.

Others have said the opposite: that low-fat diets enable people to lose weight naturally. But that belief was not supported by this study.

As for heart disease risk factors, the only one affected was LDL cholesterol, which increases heart disease risk. The levels were slightly higher in women eating the higher-fat diet, but not high enough to make a noticeable difference in their risk of heart disease.

Although all the study participants were women, the colon cancer and heart disease results should also apply to men, said Dr. Jacques Rossouw, the project officer for the Women's Health Initiative.
Clearly this isn’t reason to throw all caution to the wind, but it’s intriguing nonetheless. I’d be interested to see a similar study started earlier in participants’ lives to see if that made any discernible difference, but I suspect it wouldn’t. I suspect the consternating truth is that we have much less control over preventing disease through diet than we’d like to think.

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