June 26 2012

Another Government Food Reversal

Julie Gunlock

I spent my late teens and early twenties in what I call the Snackwells era—the years before the Atkins diet emerged when the diet mantra was low fat, low fat, low fat.  Thousands of products entered the marketplace to satisfy this low-fat demand.  Low fat cheese, low fat cookies (such as Snackwells), low fat potato chips and other snacks; even meat manufacturers began pushing lower fat meat products like lean cuts of pork and chicken breasts as health food.  Salad dressing choices exploded. Suddenly there were all sorts of varieties of low and no fat salad dressings.  They flew off the shelves; purchased by serial dieters, like me.

For years, I used low-fat salad dressings on my salads. I hated them. They were gluey, slightly sweet, and had an artificial taste.  But, Americans were told this was the way to lose weight and then maintain that trim figure.  The federal government issued guidelines telling Americans they needed to lower the fat content in their meals making these products even more popular.

Now, a new study suggests that fat-filled dressings may actually be the healthier option. Well, thank you so much!  Nevermind that I can never get back the years I spent eating those salads drizzled with those tasteless vinaigrettes. Apparently that whole time I could have been eating full fat ranch dressing-smothered lettuce.

The New York Post explains the reversal saying a dressing’s fat helps the body absorb more of those important nutrients contained in salads—nutrients such as carotenoids that have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like cancer and cardiovascular disease and act as antioxidants.

For their study, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, scientists fed 29 people salads topped with three types of dressings: a butter-based dressing full of saturated fats; a dressing made with canola oil, or monounsaturated fat; and corn oil with polyunsaturated fats.

What they found was that the absorption rate of carotenoids was most dependent on the fat content of the dressing, particularly with the polyunsaturated sauce: the more fat on the salad, the more carotenoids subjects absorbed.

This study was backed by a study conducted in 2004 from Iowa State University which also found that people absorb more carotenoids from vegetables when paired with full-fat dressings compared to low-fat or fat-free versions.

These types of reversals are nothing new.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I was told not to even stand close to can of tuna. Now, the government is telling pregnant women to eat tuna because it helps a child’s brain development. 

Sorry about that, first born.  You could have been a little smarter, but mommy trusted those government hacks.

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