Recent findings on low-fat diets won't mean cuts in restaurant menu choices, nutritionist says

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Restaurants are not likely to reduce their lower-fat offerings in response to a new study that shows low-fat diets do not significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and two types of cancer, according to a University of North Texas nutritionist.

The study by the Women's Health Initiative, published in this week's issue of "Journal of the American Medical Association," focused on the link between dietary fat and the risk of developing breast cancer, since past research has shown that the rate of breast cancer is higher in nations with more fat in everyday diets.

The subjects in the study were 50,000 mostly overweight, postmenopausal women. Twenty-thousand of the women radically changed their eating habits in hopes of reducing cancer and heart disease. After an average of eight years, the women showed little difference in their rates of breast cancer, colorectal cancer and heart disease compared to the 30,000 study participants who didn't change their high-fat eating habits.

Johnny Sue Reynolds, associate dean of UNT's School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management, admits that the findings are a bit of a surprise.

"The results of this study are not only going to be perplexing to women as they try to determine what will decrease their risks for heart disease and breast cancer, but the results will perplex the restaurant industry as well," she says.

She points out that the restaurant industry, particularly fast food restaurants "has spent enormous amounts of money on the research and development of low fat menu options ."

"Because of the tremendous obesity levels in the U.S., there is still a great need to limit fat intact in diets. Fast food restaurants should continue to offer low fat menu items," Reynolds says.

The study also found that reducing fats without reducing calories does not lead to weight loss. Because of this, Reynolds says fast food consumers need to choose wisely when selecting what they will eat.

"Even though nutrition is an important consideration, the convenience factor often overrides our decisions to eat at fast food restaurants," Reynolds says. "Hopefully, the availability of these low-fat menu items will encourage women to eat fat-laden foods in moderation."

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108