May 2004 Issue--A study conducted at Penn State University (University Park, Pa.) reveals that a weight-loss diet that includes a moderate amount of fat reduces the dieter's cardiovascular risk better than a low-fat diet. The study comprised 53 overweight or obese men and women, all with total cholesterol levels above 200 at the start of the study.

The group consumed either a low-fat or moderate-fat diet designed for weight loss for six weeks, and then ate a similar diet designed for maintenance for four weeks. The foods provided 18% of calories from fat in the low-fat diet or 33% of calories from fat in the moderate-fat diet. In the moderate-fat diet, half the fat was monounsaturated fat from peanuts and peanut oil.

As reported in February's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the moderate-fat diet produced a 14% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk, as compared to a 9% improvement in the low-fat dieters. However, the low-fat consumers did reduce their “good” cholesterol 12%, versus no change in the level in moderate-fat dieters.