BY DORI T. MITCHELL, RD, LD
Consumers are often surprised to learn that scientists do not agree on the ideal diet. While it is clear to scientists that Americans' high-fat diets are responsible for our very high rate of heart disease, there is a difference Of opinion about the "ideal" amount of fat in the diet.
THREE APPROACHES TO LOW-FAT DIETS
Experts debate the ideal
Three of the nation's leading diet and nutrition experts debated the "ideal American diet" at a recent nutrition conference sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in Washington, D.C. Each expert proposed a different approach for reducing fat intake.
The mainstream position in the low-fat diet debate was taken by Virgil Brown, MD, president of the American Heart Association (AHA). At the CSPI conference, he advocated that the AHA Step One Diet — a low-fat, well-balanced diet that
includes a modest amount of animal protein — is the ideal American diet. The average American diet is 37% fat and 14% saturated fat (in percent of total calories). The Step One Diet restricts dietary fat to no more than 30% of total calories, and saturated fat to no more than 10% of total calories. Brown advocated the AHA Step One Diet because it is practical and easily attainable for most people and has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve health. [Editor's Note: For more information on the AHA Diet, you can get a copy of "The American Heart Association Diet: An Eating Plan for Healthy Americans" from your local chapter of the AHA or by writing the American Heart Association, National Center, 7320 Greenville Ave.. Dallas, TX 75321.]Dean Ornish, MD, from the University of California at San Francisco, advocated a lacto-vegetarian phenibut (dairy and vegeta
bles) diet that includes egg white and nonfat dairy products. He recommended LIMIT FATS a fat intake of no more than 10% of the T01.0% OF total calories from plant sources only, and CALORIES an unlimited caloric intake from plant foods. While Omish agreed that a 30% fat diet is acceptable for individuals with normal blood LDL-cholesterol levels, those with elevated levels and/or heart disease should have far less fat in their diet, he argued. He reported that arterial plaque can be dissolved with a 10% fat diet. Ornish concluded that individuals should be given the opportunity to try a very low-fat diet before beginning cholesterol-lowering medication. [Editor's Note: For more information on Dr. Omish's diet, you can consult his book, Dr. Dean Ornisb's Program for Reversing Heart Disease.]