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'Healthy fat' diet keeps those lost pounds off

If you've lost weight, a diet containing healthy unsaturated fats can help you to keep the pounds you've shed at bay, say Danish researchers. A diet that is high in monounsaturated fatty acids is as good at keeping the pounds away as a traditional low-fat diet.

The Danes did an experiment with 130 men and women who were slightly overweight. First they got their subjects to follow a strict 1000 kilocalorie per day diet for eight weeks to lose weight. Then they divided the subjects into three groups.

One group returned to their normal diet. The subjects in the second group were allowed to eat as much as they wanted, but were given a diet that contained less than 25 percent fat. [Low-fat group] The third group also ate ad libitum, but ate more fat. [MUFA group] About 40 percent of the energy in this diet came from fats – mainly from monounsaturated fatty acids, such as those found in nuts and olive oil.

The amount of protein was the same in the diets of all three groups. Fifteen percent of the energy came from proteins in each diet.

The researchers monitored the test subjects for six months. The graph below shows the weight increase during the period of the experiment.

'Healthy fat' diet keeps those lost pounds off

Now, weight isn't everything. Body composition is more relevant. The figure below shows the increase in the test subjects' body fat during the six months.

'Healthy fat' diet keeps those lost pounds off

A low-fat diet and a diet containing healthy fats have about the same effect when it comes to maintaining low body fat.

But when the researchers analysed the test subjects' blood, they saw that the subjects on the healthy-fat diet were healthier. Their insulin levels and cholesterol levels were lower. The healthy fat-rich diet was based on Walter Willett's work.

More and more nutritionists are claiming that weight loss is best achieved with a protein-rich diet. Weight loss on a protein-diet is faster and keeps metabolism at a good level. And after you've lost weight, a protein-rich diet will help you to keep away those pounds you've lost.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Nov; 88(5):1232-41.