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January 15, 1992

What If Americans Ate Less Fat?

Author Affiliations

University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine

JAMA. 1992;267(3):362. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480030039020

To the Editor.  —I was disappointed by the article by Browner et al1 because it leaves people with information that is incomplete and misleading in an area of public policy that is increasingly important. When people read that a low-fat diet prolongs life by only 3 to 4 months, and then primarily only in people older than 65 years, it often leaves them with a profound feeling of therapeutic nihilism: Why bother? Bring out the bacon and eggs!However, this conclusion is flawed and misleading. First, the beneficial effects of a low-fat diet are diluted by averaging these effects over an entire population, including those who are not likely to have CHD or diet-related cancers. For an individual who has significant cardiac risk factors and might otherwise develop heart disease at age 40 years, the benefits of a low-fat diet would be correspondingly much greater.Second, while a