The Journal of the Medical Association (JAMA) has published a Viewpoint from a large research group urging the federal government to drop restrictions on total fat consumption.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (DGAC), a  group of independent scientists convened by the federal government to review health research, did not propose restricting total fat consumption in their report for the first time since 1980. By the end of the year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will write the final Dietary Guidelines for Americans using this report as guidance, Tufts University reported. 

Placing limits on total fat intake has no basis in science and leads to all sorts of wrong industry and consumer decisions," said Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School, and David Ludwig. "Modern evidence clearly shows that eating more foods rich in healthful fats like nuts, vegetable oils, and fish have protective effects, particularly for cardiovascular disease. Other fat-rich foods, like whole milk and cheese, appear pretty neutral; while many low-fat foods, like low-fat deli meats, fat-free salad dressing, and baked potato chips, are no better and often even worse than full-fat alternatives. It's the food that matters, not its fat content."

Instead of restricting fat intake, the researchers suggest adopting healthier dietary patterns by consuming more vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, beans, and seafood. They also suggest cutting down on sugars, meats, and refined grains.

"When U.S. guidelines began recommending low-fat diets in 1980, people responded by turning to low-fat or non-fat products, away from healthy high-fat foods and toward refined grains and added sugars," Ludwig said. "A growing body of research shows that refined carbohydrates increase metabolic dysfunction and obesity. Yet, foods rich in added sugars, starches and refined grains like white bread, white rice, chips, crackers and bakery desserts still account for most of the calories people eat. Lifting the restriction on total fat would clear the way for restaurants and industry to reformulate products containing more healthful fats and fewer refined grains and added sugars."

The researchers are calling on other government agencies to take into account the new opinions on total fat. This includes the National School Lunch program, which recently banned whole milk from their menus but continue to offer sugar-sweetened non-fat milk.

"From agriculture to food producers to school cafeterias to restaurants, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans serve as a beacon for countless dietary choices in the public and private sector," Mozaffarian said. "With obesity and chronic disease impacting public health so deeply, we can't miss this critical opportunity to improve the food supply. The USDA and HHS must use the 2015 guidelines to send the message that limiting total fat provides no benefits and actually leads to confusion and bad dietary choices."