Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Macronutrient Metabolism Group Symposium on ‘Dietary fat: how low should we go?’

Dietary fat: assessing the evidence in support of a moderate-fat diet; the benchmark based on lipoprotein metabolism

P. M. Kris-Ethertona1 c1, A. E. Binkoskia1, G. Zhaoa1, S. M. Covala1, K. F. Clemmera1, H. D. Heckera1, H. Jacquesa2 and T. D. Ethertona3

a1 Nutrition Department, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

a2 Department des Sciences des Aliments et de Nutrition, Universite Laval, Sainte-Foy, Quebec, Canada

a3 Department of Dairy and Animal Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA


There is a growing database that has evaluated the effects of varying amounts of total fat on risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and overweight and obesity. The evidence clearly suggests that extremes in dietary fat should be avoided, and instead a diet moderate in total fat (25–35 % energy) is preferable for the majority of individuals. Moreover, we now appreciate the importance of individualizing dietary fat recommendations within this range of total fat. With respect to cardiovascular disease, a diet higher in total fat (30–35 % energy) affects the lipid and lipoprotein risk profile more favourably than a lower-fat diet; this is also the case for individuals with diabetes, with the added benefit of better glycaemic control. Dietary fibre (≧25g/d) attenuates and even prevents the potentially adverse lipid and lipoprotein effects of a lower-fat diet. With respect to weight control, a moderate-fat diet can be as, or even more, effective than a lower-fat diet, because of advantages with long-term adherence and potentially favourable effects on lipids and lipoproteins. Thus, there is now a convincing scientific basis to advocate a diet moderate in total fat for the majority of individuals. Implicit to this position is that unsaturated fat has numerous beneficial health effects. However, because fat is energy dense, moderation in fat intake is essential for weight control. Consequently, a simple message to convey is to avoid diets that are very low and very high in fat. Moreover, within the range of a moderate-fat diet it is still important to individualize the total fat prescription. Nonetheless, the guiding principle is that moderation in total fat is the defining benchmark for a contemporary diet that reduces risk of chronic disease.


c1 Dr Penny Kris-Etherton, fax +1 814 863 6026, email