The Skinny on Fat

POSTED: Monday, August 17, 2009 - 8:11am

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 2:24pm

Is "reduced fat" really low fat? Lindsay Wilcox has the facts on fat labeling...

Grocery stores are filled with products targeting people trying to watch their weight, but when a food is labeled 99% fat free or 1% lowfat - is there any truth to the claims?

For the shopper counting calories the grocery store is filled with appealing, albeit confusing options.

"I'm always in a hurry at the grocery store, so I just go on what's there that's very easy to read," one woman said.

When it comes to foods labeled with a certain percentage of fat, like 90% lean beef which claims to have only 10% fat, you may be getting more than you bargained for.

Nutritionists say we should keep our daily fat intake at 30% or below, a number that is figured by dividing the fat calories in a product by the total calories.

Unfortunately, the front of the food labels are governed by loose marketing rules, and the fat content on the front label refers to the weight of the fat compared to the weight of the overall product.

"That has nothing to do with the calories," says Dr. Donna Casey.

Dr. Casey is an internist with Texas Health Dallas.

She says deceptive food labels are sabotaging millions of Americans who are trying to eat healthy.

"Studies show that people actually eat 30-40% more when they think they're eating a healthy or lowfat diet. They consume more product which means more calories," she explains.

For example, some lunch meats are marketed as 97% fat free, but if you divide the fat calories by total calories like nutritionists do, it's actually 25% fat.

Then look at 2% lowfat milk.

Again divide fat calories by total calories and it's actually 37% fat.

It's just another reason health care experts say if you want the real skinny on what you're eating, the only label you can trust is the one on the back.

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