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Int J Food Sci Nutr. 1997 Jan;48(1):19-29.

A long-term study on the effect of spontaneous consumption of reduced fat products as part of a normal diet on indicators of health.

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Unilever Research Laboratorium, Vlaardingen, Zeist, The Netherlands.


The growing public concern with the adverse effects on health of a high fat intake has led to a proliferation on the market of reduced fat products. However, no consensus exists on the effectivity of reduced fat products to decrease energy intake. The studies that have investigated this topic have included small numbers of subjects, studied under laboratory conditions and over a relatively short period of time. Therefore, we have executed a long-term study in which volunteers had free access to both reduced fat, commercially available products in the laboratory as well as to products obtained from regular shops. We here report the feasibility of such a type of study and the effects of consumption of reduced fat products on blood levels of cholesterol, haemostasis variables, antioxidants and parameters of the immune system. The study was a multicentre parallel comparison trial of six months (so-called MSFAT-study). 241 volunteers received either reduced fat products or full-fat products and the products were clearly labelled as such. Two months before the start of the study, a 1 month adaptation period was executed to optimize the experimental procedures. Food intake was recorded before the start of the adaptation period and 2-4 weeks, 3 months and 6 months after the start of the study. Blood samples were taken before, after 2, 4 and 6 months of the study. In addition, a selection of the reduced fat and full-fat products was sensorically evaluated three times during the study by a subgroup of the volunteers. 220 volunteers completed the study. The reduced fat group consumed on average 46% less fat from the so-called MSFAT-products obtained from the shop at the laboratory than the control group and consumption of these MSFAT-products did not decrease in either of the groups during the time course of the study. The palatability of the reduced fat and full-fat products was similar and as expected, the perceived fattiness of the full-fat products was higher than that of the reduced fat products. No effects were found on blood levels of cholesterol, haemostasis variables, parameters of antioxidant status and immune system characteristics. In conclusion, the experimental manipulation of the fat content of the diet that was achieved and that remained stable throughout the 6 months of the study indicates that this type of set-up is feasible to assess the effects of long-term nutritional intervention in large groups of volunteers under semi-controlled conditions. The regular use of reduced fat products did not positively but also not adversely affect blood cholesterol levels, antioxidant status, haemostasis factors and the body's immune system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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