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Let's you and me chew the fat

Studies show our rigid dieting is wrong ... and the French are right.


HALLELUJAH! Fat is back!

You'll be happy to know that after years of choking down the banal, tasteless, Styrofoam-like fat-free snacks, desserts and those absolutely awful fat-free dressings, some new research says that full-fat milk, butter and cream are less likely to make you obese.

I know, it's a real head-scratcher and sounds counterintuitive, right? But, according to two recently released reports from Europe, the prevailing assumptions about fat just don't support the facts. A Swedish study of almost 2,000 men in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care states that consuming full-fat dairy correlates with a lower risk of developing abdominal obesity. A second study, by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, says ditto to the Swedish study, and says that high-fat dairy is associated with lower obesity.

Not only do I agree with the finding of these two studies, but my personal anecdotal evidence led me to this discovery a few years ago. For years I, too, struggled with low-fat, high-carb diets that only increased my weight gain.

One day I decided to go back to the basics and eat only wholesome whole foods I enjoyed, like full-fat Greek yogurt and full-fat olive-oil-based salad dressing. I also recalled my trips abroad to Europe, remembering that nearly everything I ate was half the U.S. portion size.

For example, in Europe, the standard adult serving of yogurt was 4 ounces, while the U.S. equivalent was 8 ounces. The croissant there was not much bigger than my thumb, but at home it was nearly the size of my hand.

Surprisingly, I was satisfied with the meager European servings. I suppose the higher fat content of the meals made me feel fuller faster and for longer.

It's that French paradox thing. In case you've forgotten, the French paradox refers to the lower rate of heart disease in France, despite a diet rich in saturated fat.

It's also worth noting, however, that the French also have lower rates of heart disease because they have significantly less obesity, and moderate exercise is the rule over there, not the exception. Studies also have shown that compared to Americans the French consume nearly double the fruits and vegetables, and a lot of wine (which many researchers believe may play a role in their good health). The French also savor their indulgent meals, take longer to eat and then typically walk throughout the day.

I never saw anybody over there shoveling down a cheesesteak and large fries, and washing it down with 32 ounces of soda.

Admittedly, as a typical American I was initially shocked by the paltry portions I received when in France. But those meals were luscious and delicious. Indeed, less was more, and I left every meal satisfied.

Also worth mentioning: Europeans in general, and the French in particular, don't snack all day like we do. Not once did I see Europeans walking down the street munching on soft pretzels, chips or ice-cream cones. In fact, even a serving of ice cream was 1/4 to 1/2 a cup, not a pint.