‘Low-fat’ foods can actually make you fatter, damage your liver as badly as booze: Study

ATHENS, Ga. — Consumers may want to consider their livers before grabbing those “healthy” low-fat diet foods off shelves.

Researchers at the University of Georgia have found that foods low in fat but high in sugar — like the ones marketed for low-fat diets — actually cause the body to produce more fat and result in liver damage, similar to what happens with heavy alcohol use.

Weight loss, dieting
A new study finds that many low-fat foods can actually lead to fat growth, and may damage the liver as much as heavy alcohol use.

In the study, three groups of rats were fed different diets over a four-week period and checked for weight, calories consumed and body fat. One group ate a diet high in both fat and sugar (what we might call an unhealthy diet), a second group was fed a diet low in fat and high in sugar (what we might call a healthy diet), and a third group ate a normal diet.

Both groups on special diets, whether low-fat/high-sugar or high-fat/high-sugar, gained weight and had more liver and body fat than those on the normal diet. For rats consuming the “dieters’ diet” (high-sugar/low-fat), the increase in liver fat was “significant.”

Krzysztof Czaja, study lead and an associate professor of veterinary biosciences and diagnostic imaging at the university, explains in a press release that this “is a very dangerous situation, because the liver accumulating more fat mimics the effect of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”

Even though this disease is not caused by alcohol use, the damage to the liver can be just as severe.

The unbalanced diets also created chronic inflammation in the brain and intestinal tract. In other studies, Czaja found that brain inflammation changes how the brain and the digestive system communicate. This can make it hard to know when to stop eating.

Consumers should pay close attention to the sugar count in foods, particularly when they’re wooed by a product’s claim of being healthier or low in fat, the researchers suggest.

“Most so-called diet products containing low or no fat have an increased amount of sugar and are camouflaged under fancy names, giving the impression that they are healthy, but the reality is that those foods may damage the liver and lead to obesity as well,” says Czaja.

He also warns that “brain changes resulting from these unbalanced diets seem to be long term, and it is still not known if they are reversible by balanced diets.”

This study was published online earlier this year in the journal Physiology and Behavior.


  1. Awesome. And the government spends million of our dollars on “low-fat” food programs. Te err is human, to really screw up takes the government.

  2. Would have also been interesting to see what a high fat, low sugar diet would have done; AKA the Ketogenic diet. Unless that’s what they mean when they say, “Normal diet”. As in, the normal diet that our hunter/gatherer ancestors normally ate. Whenever they’d catch and eat an animal they’d eat everything from the lips to the tail, including all the extremely fatty bone marrow. Millions of years of evolution trumps whatever dietary advice the US, FDA has to say over the last 50 years.

  3. What I’m wondering is, why would someone on a diet choose a low fat/high sugar food. Candy often has low fat/high sugar.

  4. This is precisely why I’ve gone keto. My diabetes is nearly behind me as well as almost 50lbs. Sugar is poison, fat is not. Why? Insulin.

  5. I guess Michelle’s school lunch reform program was as big a flop as her husband was

    REAL diets that actually work (Adkins etc) pay no attention to fat as any factor.

  6. My Grandfather’s words are as wise today as they were when he told me “Everything in moderation”.
    You will not need “low fat” if you eat wisely and healthy.

  7. Anyone with common sense would recognize that the obesity problem began about the same time that they said fat was bad for you. My grandparents thought butter was healthy, and they weren’t fat and live over 90, now everyone “knows” that butter and fat is terrible, but strangely those same people are overweight and have chronic health issues.

  8. There are many evolutionary triggers that cause the body to defensively gain weight. We have little understanding of all that. Sounds like money wasted to me. Visit UGA – you may get run over by an athlete driving a Beamer…

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