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Debunking Sweden's 'Low-Carb, High-Fat' Guidelines

When experts say it’s OK to eat fat — lots of fat — people listen. So when news sources began reporting that Sweden had changed its national dietary guidelines to recommend a high-fat, low-carb diet last fall, the news spread quickly.

The Internet was soon full of headlines like: “Sweden Becomes First Western Nation to Reject Low-fat Diet Dogma in Favor of Low-Carb High-Fat Nutrition” and “Sweden Rejects Low-Fat Diet Myth, Encourages Citizens to Cut Carbs and Eat More Fat.”

At Experience Life, we’ve touted the benefits of healthy fats for years and were intrigued by Sweden’s bold move. The problem? The stories weren’t true.

When we contacted Anna Karin Lindroos, PhD, a nutritionist at Sweden’s National Food Agency, to ask about the new guidelines, she set the record straight: “Sweden does not have any guidelines on low-carb-high-fat diets. The information that Sweden has guidelines on low-carb-high-fat diets is based on incorrect information circulating on the Internet.”

As it turns out, reporters had mistaken a review published by the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment (SBU) in September for new national guidelines. Måns Rosén, PhD, executive director at SBU, was anxious to squelch the rumors. “First, I would like to stress that we do not do guidelines, only systematic reviews and health technology assessment reports,” he says. “Second, we have earlier focused on patients with diabetes and now obese persons, not the general population.”

Although Rosén and his team aren’t recommending that we eat fat morning, noon, and night, their review of 16,000 obesity studies reveals several pro-fat findings:

  • For obese individuals, Mediterranean diets (with extra olive oil and nuts) may lead to a reduced risk of onset of cardiovascular disease or death caused by cardiovascular disease, compared with low-fat diets.
  • Low-carbohydrate diets, including strict ones, may lead to greater weight loss than low-fat diets in the short term.
  • A high intake of full-fat dairy products may lead to weight loss in obese children and adults.

Perhaps, in the future, Sweden will revisit their dietary guidelines — the SBU’s report certainly provides some good reasons to increase healthy fat and lower carbs.

For more on Experience Life’s stance on fats, don’t miss “A Big Fat Mistake” by Jack Challem.

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