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J Nutr. 2000 Feb;130(2S Suppl):284S-288S.

Dietary fat intake and regulation of energy balance: implications for obesity.

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Center for Human Nutrition, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO 80262, USA.


Obesity represents a major threat to health and quality of life. Although obesity has strong genetic determinants, the increasing prevalence of obesity in populations around the world suggests that environmental factors are promoting or exacerbating the problem. Experts are calling for public health efforts to deal with the global epidemic of obesity. Such a campaign would require that we identify and modify environmental factors that promote obesity. Our current food supply is high in fat, and high fat diets have been suggested to promote obesity by increasing energy intake, thus increasing the probability of positive energy balance and weight gain. However, others argue that high fat diets are not promoting obesity. In this paper, we review evidence from animal studies, carefully controlled laboratory studies, cross-sectional studies, clinical trials and studies in individuals at high risk to develop obesity. Although there are many environmental factors promoting excess energy intake and discouraging energy expenditure, it is clear that consumption of a high fat diet increases the likelihood of obesity and that the risk of obesity is low in individuals consuming low fat diets. On the basis of the available data, the current public health recommendations to lower dietary fat intake appear to be appropriate.

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