Fat is back: New guidelines give vilified nutrient a reprieve

Polyunsaturated fat, the "good" fat, is found in fatty fish like salmon and in some vegetable oils.

Story highlights

  • A new report by the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee concludes there is no health benefit to limiting total fat intake
  • The committee recommends saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats to reduce the risk of heart disease

(CNN)Fatty foods may be making a comeback. The latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is due out later this year, could contain a number of big changes in its recommendations, not the least of which is an exoneration of fat.

Hints of these changes come from a report earlier this year by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a panel of 14 experts, on the latest scientific evidence on diet and health since the current Dietary Guidelines were published in 2010. The Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture will use the Committee's report to decide how to update the Dietary Guidelines, which they do every five years. In general, the guidelines can have sweeping effects on what Americans eat.
    In the case of dietary fat, the committee did not find a health benefit to limiting the amount of total fat in the diet, whereas the 2010 and 2005 Guidelines stated that total fat should make up no more than 20% to 35% of total daily calories. The committee did recommend keeping the level of saturated fat, which is found in foods such as cheese, butter, whole milk and beef, to within 10% of total calories.
    "We wanted the emphasis to be on fat quality rather than total fat, because the evidence really emphasizes that saturated fat is the driver of risk rather than total fat intake," said Barbara Millen, president of Millennium Prevention and chair of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.