Contrary to commonly held belief, including fats in a healthy diet will not lead to weight gain or illness. Not all fats are created equally, however, and some are more beneficial than others. Healthy fats are needed in the body for normal body functions, hormonal development and the absorption of vitamins. In contrast, unhealthy fats such as saturated and trans fats increase the risk of certain diseases, including heart disease and stroke. Consult with a physician to determine individual dietary fat intake needs to avoid the risk of sicknesses.
A low-fat diet may not necessarily reduce the risk of illness and disease. "The New York Times" cites a 2006 study published in "The Journal of the American Medical Association" in which researchers concluded that a low-fat diet did not decrease the risks of serious disease in women between the ages of 50 and 79. Women adhering to a low-fat diet had the same rates of heart attacks, strokes, and breast and colon cancers as subjects who ate whatever foods they wanted. Opponents of this research, however, claimed that the low-fat diet may not have been low enough in fat to show significant differences. Furthermore, the women in the study reduced all sources of dietary fat. The types of fats eaten could affect the results if healthier oils were included and saturated fats such as butter were excluded.
Inadequate dietary fat intake may lead to psychological illnesses such as depression. According to "Psychology Today" magazine, major depression is often the result of serotonin dysfunction. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that contributes to feelings of calmness and well-being. It inhibits impulsive behavior caused by stress in healthy individuals. Dysfunction can lead to hostile behavior, low moods, irritability and anxiousness. A low-fat diet may contribute to impaired functioning by decreasing the necessary fats in nerve cell membranes.
Possible Vitamin Deficiency
Fats are needed in the body for the absorption of essential vitamins. Vitamins are divided into water-soluble types, including the B and C vitamins, and fat-soluble types, which consist of vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat-soluble vitamins are not readily eliminated in the body and are stored within fatty tissues and the liver. According to Colorado State University Extension, diseases stemming from inadequate fat-soluble vitamins in the body are rare, however, deficiencies may result without proper dietary intake and a poorly balanced diet. Such deficiencies may vary from digestive disorders to bone pain to poor skin health.
Dietary fat intakes vary among individuals and may range between 10 and 35 percent. Fat intake will be affected by age, stature, activity levels, sex and co-existing medical conditions. Individuals with liver or gallbladder disease will require a lower fat intake versus otherwise healthier people with low health risks. Eating a diet that is well-balanced and that includes complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats in moderation is ideally emphasized to ensure decreased risk of illnesses. According to the Mayo Clinic, even healthy fats must be eaten in moderation, as they are still a source of calories. Choosing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in oils, nuts and seeds are a heart-healthier choice and may lower total blood cholesterol.