Opinion article published in The Conversation written by Professor Clare Collins, a Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Newcastle.

If food is labelled low fat, it’s got to be better for weight loss, right? Wrong – it’s the total kilojoules that matter most for weight loss. Looking solely at fat content only gives you part of the picture.

Back in the 1970s, few foods were specifically manufactured to be low in fat. If, on doctor’s orders, you had to follow a low-fat diet, a trip around the supermarket was fast – skim milk, lots of vegetables and fruit, cottage cheese, fresh fish, and that was about it. Needless, to say you lost weight and got bored very quickly.

In 1982, we got our first set of Australian Dietary Guidelines, recommending we “avoid eating too much fat”. After that, a few more low-fat products appeared on the supermarket shelves.

The second edition of the guidelines in 1992 called for us to “eat a diet low in fat, and in particular, low in saturated fat”. This was attributed to recognition that obesity had now become a problem in Australia.

Then, in the mid-1990s, guidelines for foods with low-fat and reduced-fat content claims on their labels appeared in the Code of Practice on Nutrient Claims. From this time we really started to see an increase in products making these claims.

If a food label claims a product is low in fat, it must contain only three grams of fat or less per 100 grams of product. If it says reduced fat, it must contain at least 25% less fat than the usual version of this food.

The dietary guidelines were revised again in 2003 and the recommendations for lower total fat and saturated fat choices were embedded across a number of the guidelines, with a specific statement to “take care to limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake”.

Read the full article in The Conversation.