FAT!  The Most Talked About 2020 Macronutrient and What Nutrition Guidelines Have To Say About It

FAT! The Most Talked About 2020 Macronutrient and What Nutrition Guidelines Have To Say About It

                                     {photocredit:  Image by rawpixel.com}

The advent of fat as a loved macronutrient has had quite a journey in its ascent and can largely be attributed to the current craze in Keto dieting.  It is also one of the largest controversies nutritionists, doctors and scientists are picking sides on when it comes to the new 2020 Nutrition Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Keep in mind these guidelines affect everything from public health standards to school lunch policy.  It could even affect what insurance will cover when it comes to your healthcare.  

First off the interest in fat was mostly focused on weight and cardiovascular health, but with 2020 guidelines, research into dietary fat is being taken under greater consideration for effects ranging from women's hormones and effect on menopause, to sleep patterns, to mental cognition and thyroid function.[3]

Let’s take a look at fat’s history.  

In war-time and post war 1940’s, fat, and particularly saturated fat, which previously had not been given much credence, stepped up as a solid (no pun intended) solution during the time of rationing and wide spread hunger, as a now staple food.[4]

In the 1960’s fat won scientific acceptance in policy making and started changing how our food guidelines looked. The 90’s saw a trend towards “no fat” diets being promoted with the backing of the American Heart Association.  Interestingly obesity was still on the rise, even with the no fat/low fat guidelines.[5]  In the 2000’s the rise in obesity could  no longer be ignored, and the 2010 guidelines saw a change to recommending replacement of saturated fats with unsaturated fats, rather than decreasing dietary fat as a whole. [2]

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Now, 2020 guidelines put focus on the types of dietary fat, not just total fat intake. [1]  Of course, opposing sides have varying information on this greatest controversy:  what types and what amounts of fat, if any, are of greatest benefit to nutritive value and prevention of disease? 

Besides this, another source of fatty controversy is the labeling standards. There is conjecture that current and proposed labeling standards cause confusion and don't indicate accurate health information. With the labels of "free" Low" and "High" there can easily be  opportunity for misguided decision making.  "Less" means 25% less,  but even that "lesser amount could still make the food too high in total fat content.  Similarly, "light" means 1/3 fewer calories or 1/2 the fat, but this reduction could still put the fat content at too high a level. [4]

Time will tell, as it always does, what conclusions on dietary fat will make on the state of American health.  Will it earn its current crown of glory?  

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Tell us which side of the controversy you are on and what you think about the 2020 guidelines when it comes to dietary fat.  We’d love to hear from you!



1  Wang DD, Hu FB. Dietary Fat and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Recent Controversies and Advances. Annu Rev Nutr. 2017 Aug 21;37:423-446. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064614. Epub 2017 Jun 23. PMID: 28645222.

2 Kris-Etherton PM, Fleming JA. Emerging nutrition science on fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: nutritionists' perspectives. Adv Nutr. 2015 May 15;6(3):326S-37S. doi: 10.3945/an.114.006981. PMID: 25979506; PMCID: PMC4424771.

3  Iacovides S, Meiring RM. The effect of a ketogenic diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on sleep, cognition, thyroid function, and cardiovascular health independent of weight loss: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2018 Jan 23;19(1):62. doi: 10.1186/s13063-018-2462-5. PMID: 29361967; PMCID: PMC5782363.

4  Brown, L. L., & Kadar, G. E. (n.d.) Retrieved April 3, 2021. Food Labeling and Fortification [PDf]. SCNM. https://scnm.instructure.com/courses/3491/pages/module-1-lecture?module_item_id=126174

History of modern nutrition science—implications for current research, dietary guidelines, and food policy. (2018, June 13). The BMJ. https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2392


Amanda Plevell is a Natural Health Practitioner with a key interest in Psychoneuroimmunology and autoimmune-specific immunology, and is currently a student of Clinical Nutrition at SCNM in Arizona.  

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