Lauren Gooding of Oyster Bay, LI asks:
In your discussion with Margaret Warner, you said that "Mono unsaturated fat actually looks to be somewhat good compared to carbohydrates." What does that mean? Also, I am reasonably concerned with my weight and I eat a low-fat diet-- all this talk about the health benefits of olive oil is causing people to slop it on. This can't be good for you, can it?
Dr. Walter Willett responds:
In many carefully controlled feeding studies, monounsaturated fat has consistently appeared better than carbohydrate because both of these lower LDL (bad cholesterol) to a similar degree compared to saturated fat, but carbohydrate depresses HDL (good cholesterol) and raises blood triglyceride levels.
Thus it was not surprising in our large prospective study that women consuming monounsaturated fats tended to have lower risks of heart attacks than women consuming the same number of calories from carbohydrate. Of course, excessive calories can lead to overweight but calories from fat and from carbohydrate have the same effects on weigh gain.
What this means is that people should not just add olive oil to what they already eat, but should use olive oil and other unsaturated fats to replace the bad fats in their diet, specifically saturated and trans fat. Again, if one needs to watch their weight, we must pay attention to excessive calories both from fat and from carbohydrate. Some people have gotten the notion that calories from carbohydrate don't count and we can load up on all of them that we want; this is clearly not true.
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