Low Fat Dieting Can Increase Heart Disease in Women

The Study

The Women’s Health Initiative was a massive study launched in 1991 to evaluate the health benefits for women if they ate less fat in their diet. This is one of the largest nutritional studies ever done.

The study involved almost 50,000 women, some of who were placed on a low-fat, high fruit, vegetable and grain diet. The comparison group of women were kept on their usual diet.

The women who modified their diet reduced their fat intake by 8.2%.

The Question

Did the decrease in fat consumption their risk cardiovascular disease (ischemic stroke or heart attack)?

Remember, we’ve been told for 3-4 decades to eat less fat because fat was dangerous and causes strokes and heart attacks.

The Answer

No.  There is no decrease in your risk of stroke or heart attacks if you significantly decrease the amount of fat in your diet.

In other words, eating more fat does not increase your risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Amazing isn’t it.  With some much commercialization around “low fat” within pharmaceutical, medical, food, weight loss industries, you would of thought this issue point would have been answered long ago.

The fact of the matter is there has never been a well done study in women that has shown a decrease in saturated fat reduces the risk of heart disease.

Low Fat Diet Might Make Things Worse

What if you are already suffering from heart disease and go ahead and choose to follow a low fat diet?

The study provides a little insight into this question as well.  There was a group (1,656 women) who entered the study who had previously had a stroke or heart attack previously.

They actually seemed to do worse!  The following is a quote from the study:

“The intervention was associated with increased risk in the 3.4% of women with baseline CVD [heart attacks or strokes]; this may be a chance observation, or rates in this small subset may be confounded by concurrent therapy or comorbid conditions”.

The study showed that reducing the amount of fat in your diet actually increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by 26%.

There was also an increase in the development of certain cancers with low fat dietary practices.

Bottom Line

Reducing fat does not help reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes in women.

And if you already had a heart attack or a stroke, reducing your fat intake may actually increase your risk of having another.

And remember, the blood vessel damage that leads to heart attacks and ischemic strokes is mainly fueled by the carbohydrates in your diet that then lead to insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance causes blood vessel inflammation that utimately ruptures, triggers a small blood clot, this blocks blood flow in the vessel and results in a heart attack or stroke.

Don’t forget, cigarettes also increase the risk of heart attacks or strokes as well.


Patrick Nemechek, D.O.

Patrick Nemechek, D.O.

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