Evidence from randomised controlled trials did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Author’s abstract:

Objectives National dietary guidelines were introduced in 1977 and 1983, by the US and UK governments, respectively, with the ambition of reducing coronary heart disease (CHD) by reducing fat intake. To date, no analysis of the evidence base for these recommendations has been undertaken. The present study examines the evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) available to the US and UK regulatory committees at their respective points of implementation.

Methods A systematic review and meta-analysis were undertaken of RCTs, published prior to 1983, which examined the relationship between dietary fat, serum cholesterol and the development of CHD.

Results 2467 males participated in six dietary trials: five secondary prevention studies and one including healthy participants. There were 370 deaths from all-cause mortality in the intervention and control groups. The risk ratio (RR) from meta-analysis was 0.996 (95% CI 0.865 to 1.147). There were 207 and 216 deaths from CHD in the intervention and control groups, respectively. The RR was 0.989 (95% CI 0.784 to 1.247). There were no differences in all-cause mortality and non-significant differences in CHD mortality, resulting from the dietary interventions. The reductions in mean serum cholesterol levels were significantly higher in the intervention groups; this did not result in significant differences in CHD or all-cause mortality. Government dietary fat recommendations were untested in any trial prior to being introduced.

Conclusions Dietary recommendations were introduced for 220 million US and 56 million UK citizens by 1983, in the absence of supporting evidence from RCTs.

Comparison of low- and high-carbohydrate diets for type 2 diabetes management: a randomized trial

This abstract is available at Pubmed.gov:


To comprehensively compare the effects of a very low-carbohydrate, high-unsaturated/low-saturated fat diet (LC) with those of a high-unrefined carbohydrate, low-fat diet (HC) on glycemic control and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in type 2 diabetes (T2DM).


Obese adults (n = 115, BMI 34.4 ± 4.2 kg/m(2), age 58 ± 7 years) with T2DM were randomized to a hypocaloric LC diet (14% carbohydrate [<50 g/day], 28% protein, and 58% fat [<10% saturated fat]) or an energy-matched HC diet (53% carbohydrate, 17% protein, and 30% fat [<10% saturated fat]) combined with structured exercise for 24 weeks. The outcomes measured were as follows: glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), glycemic variability (GV; assessed by 48-h continuous glucose monitoring), antiglycemic medication changes (antiglycemic medication effects score [MES]), and blood lipids and pressure.


A total of 93 participants completed 24 weeks. Both groups achieved similar completion rates (LC 79%, HC 82%) and weight loss (LC -12.0 ± 6.3 kg, HC -11.5 ± 5.5 kg); P ≥ 0.50. Blood pressure (-9.8/-7.3 ± 11.6/6.8 mmHg), fasting blood glucose (-1.4 ± 2.3 mmol/L), and LDL cholesterol (-0.3 ± 0.6 mmol/L) decreased, with no diet effect (P ≥ 0.10). LC achieved greater reductions in triglycerides (-0.5 ± 0.5 vs. -0.1 ± 0.5 mmol/L), MES (-0.5 ± 0.5 vs. -0.2 ± 0.5), and GV indices; P ≤ 0.03. LC induced greater HbA1c reductions (-2.6 ± 1.0% [-28.4 ± 10.9 mmol/mol] vs. -1.9 ± 1.2% [-20.8 ± 13.1 mmol/mol]; P = 0.002) and HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) increases (0.2 ± 0.3 vs. 0.05 ± 0.2 mmol/L; P = 0.007) in participants with the respective baseline values HbA1c >7.8% (62 mmol/mol) and HDL-C <1.29 mmol/L.


Both diets achieved substantial improvements for several clinical glycemic control and CVD risk markers. These improvements and reductions in GV and antiglycemic medication requirements were greatest with the LC compared with HC. This suggests an LC diet with low saturated fat may be an effective dietary approach for T2DM management if effects are sustained beyond 24 weeks.

Exploring the relationship between preferences for high fat foods and efficacy of the ketogenic and modified Atkins diets among children with seizure disorders

This abstract is available at Pubmed.gov:


Previous research has indicated that children with seizures may prefer high fat foods – a preference compatible with ketogenic and modified Atkins dietary therapies. The purpose of this prospective study was to examine the relationship between fat preference and efficacy of therapeutic diets in treating intractable seizures among a pediatric population.


Preference for high fat foods was directly assessed in a sample of 30 children prior to commencing either the ketogenic or modified Atkins diet. Seizure control was assessed at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months following diet initiation. Using an intent-to-treat analysis, correlations between fat preference and diet efficacy were examined at each follow-up and across the follow-up period.


At individual follow-ups, correlations between fat preference and diet efficacy varied in terms of both strength and significance; however, modest, positive correlations with fat preference were significant when examining high levels of efficacy (100% seizure reduction, ≥90% seizure reduction) across a 1-year follow-up period.


These findings provide preliminary evidence that fat preference, when directly assessed, may be a useful predictor of treatment efficacy for the ketogenic and modified Atkins diets; however, further research is necessary.

Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets

Background: Low-carbohydrate diets are popular for weight loss, but their cardiovascular effects have not been well-studied, particularly in diverse populations.

Objective: To examine the effects of a low-carbohydrate diet compared with a low-fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors.

Design: A randomized, parallel-group trial. (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00609271)

Setting: A large academic medical center.

Participants: 148 men and women without clinical cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Intervention: A low-carbohydrate (<40 g/d) or low-fat (<30% of daily energy intake from total fat [<7% saturated fat]) diet. Both groups received dietary counseling at regular intervals throughout the trial.

Measurements: Data on weight, cardiovascular risk factors, and dietary composition were collected at 0, 3, 6, and 12 months.

Results: Sixty participants (82%) in the low-fat group and 59 (79%) in the low-carbohydrate group completed the intervention. At 12 months, participants on the low-carbohydrate diet had greater decreases in weight (mean difference in change, −3.5 kg [95% CI, −5.6 to −1.4 kg]; P = 0.002), fat mass (mean difference in change, −1.5% [CI, −2.6% to −0.4%]; P = 0.011), ratio of total–high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (mean difference in change, −0.44 [CI, −0.71 to −0.16]; P = 0.002), and triglyceride level (mean difference in change, −0.16 mmol/L [−14.1 mg/dL] [CI, −0.31 to −0.01 mmol/L {−27.4 to −0.8 mg/dL}]; P = 0.038) and greater increases in HDL cholesterol level (mean difference in change, 0.18 mmol/L [7.0 mg/dL] [CI, 0.08 to 0.28 mmol/L {3.0 to 11.0 mg/dL}]; P < 0.001) than those on the low-fat diet.

Limitation: Lack of clinical cardiovascular disease end points.

Conclusion: The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet. Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.

Primary Funding Source: National Institutes of Health

Consuming a hypocaloric high fat low carbohydrate diet for 12 weeks lowers C-reactive protein, and raises serum adiponectin and high density lipoprotein-cholesterol in obese subjects

High fat, low carbohydrate (HFLC) diets have become popular tools for weight management. We sought to determine the effects of a HFLC diet compared to a low fat high carbohydrate (LFHC) diet on the change in weight loss, cardiovascular risk factors and inflammation in subjects with obesity.
Obese subjects (29.0-44.6 kg/m2) recruited from Boston Medical Center were randomized to a hypocaloric LFHC (n=26) or HFLC (n=29) diet for 12 weeks.
The age range of subjects was 21-62 years. As a percentage of daily calories, the HFLC group consumed 33.5% protein, 56.0% fat and 9.6% carbohydrate and the LFHC group consumed 22.0% protein, 25.0% fat and 55.7% carbohydrate. The change in percent body weight, lean and fat mass, blood pressure, flow mediated dilation, hip:waist ratio, hemoglobin A1C, fasting insulin and glucose, and glucose and insulin response to a 2h oral glucose tolerance test did not differ (P>0.05) between diets after 12 weeks. The HFLC group had greater mean decreases in serum triglyceride (P=0.07), and hs-CRP (P=0.03), and greater mean increases in HDL cholesterol (P=0.004), and total adiponectin (P=0.045) relative to the LFHC. Secreted adipose tissue adiponectin or TNF-α did not differ after weight loss for either diet.
Relative to the LFHC group, the HFLC group had greater improvements in blood lipids and systemic inflammation with similar changes in body weight and composition. This small-scale study suggests that HFLC diets may be more beneficial to cardiovascular health and inflammation in free-living obese adults compared to LFHC diets.

Saturated fat is not the major issue

Scientists universally accept that trans fats—found in many fast foods, bakery products, and margarines—increase the risk of cardiovascular disease through inflammatory processes.1 But “saturated fat” is another story. The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades.

Yet scientific evidence shows that this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risks. Furthermore, the government’s obsession with levels of total cholesterol, which has led to the overmedication of millions of people with statins, has diverted our attention from the more egregious risk factor of atherogenic dyslipidaemia.