In part 1 of this article, I discussed the truth about low-fat diets and how they can actually be seriously detrimental to your health and longevity. In part 2, I’d like to continue to dispel the myths about FAT and give you a little more info on how we got so backwards about it, the current research regarding fat intake and what you can do to change your health for the better…
If you’re worried about your weight, don’t. The truth is that fat doesn’t make you fat. Excess calories and processed carbohydrates make you fat. If you want to lose fat, you need to eat a more natural diet of fresh produce and naturally-raised meats/fish, eliminate processed and refined foods, and move your body! This rule applies to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
If we can divorce ourselves from the false prejudice about dietary fat, it’s really quite simple. Your body controls fat building, and hormones are used to set the controls. The hormone that controls fat is insulin.
And how much insulin do you secrete in response to a fat-laden meal?
Insulin is secreted in response to carbohydrates, not fat. Eat more carbohydrates, especially the refined, processed, grain-based variety, and you will secrete more insulin and build more fat, all other things being equal.
So how in the world did we end up with a national stance that is so backwards as to what is actually healthy?
About 10,000 years ago, people began to domesticate plants and animals. There was a gradual switch from hunting and gathering to farming and raising livestock. These methods could support a larger population, but quality was traded for quantity.
When humans made the switch from hunter-gatherers to farmers, their dietary fat and protein intake went down, while carbohydrate intake went up…and the incidence of chronic and degenerative disease began to steadily rise.
In the 1950s, a nutrition researcher named Ancel Keys proposed a hypothesis, that dietary fat was the direct cause of high blood cholesterol and thus of heart disease. He called this hypothesis the “lipid hypothesis.”
In 1977, a Senate Committee released its “Dietary Goals for the United States.” Without any real evidence, it identified fat as the culprit. Later, The National Institutes of Health jumped on the “ban fat” wagon. In 1984, the NIH announced that Americans must cut their fat intake. The food industry quickly produced a slew of “low-fat” products. But without all that tasty fat, the food produced was bland, and in order to improve palatabilty (and therefore SALES), high amounts of sugar became a common additive. Americans replaced fat with refined carbohydrates and sugar.
The nutrition community of that time completely accepted the lipid hypothesis, and encouraged the public to cut out butter, red meat, animal fats, eggs, dairy and other “artery clogging” fats from their diets — a radical change at that time.
What you may not know is that when Keys published his analysis that claimed to
prove the link between dietary fats and coronary heart disease, he selectively
analyzed information from only SIX countries to prove his correlation, rather than comparing all the data available at the time — from 22 countries. The data from the other 16 countries did not show ANY correlation between dietary fat and heart disease, and in general, the native diets in those countries contained more fat than modern, western diets and the population of those countries showed lower incidence of chronic, degenerative disease.
Unfortunately, as a result of Keys’ “cherry-picked” data, government health organizations began bombarding the public with advice that has contributed to the diabetes and obesity epidemics going on today: eat a low-fat diet.
Not surprisingly, numerous studies have actually shown that Keys’ theory was wrong and natural sources of saturated fats are healthy. Again and again, when looking at the full data from these studies, the evidence that reducing saturated fat improves your health simply CANNOT BE FOUND. Even when looking at the full data available from all 22 countries in Keys’ study, it becomes obvious that absolutely no correlation between saturated fat intake and heart disease exists. (For the detailed information about these conclusive studies, check the excellent resources at the bottom of the page).
Here’s the gist: all fats, saturated and unsaturated, are actually a combination of both. You need the characteristics and attributes of both. You NEED both saturated and unsaturated fats. (People think that saturated fats are unhealthy, but if this was true, why are the plaques found in arteries 74 percent unsaturated fats?)
By now, you’ve hopefully heard that you should have more Omega 3’s than Omega 6’s. The ratio is supposed to be 1:1 or up to 4:1, but in most people’s cases, their current intake ratio is a very unhealthy 1:25 because they’re eating so many over-processed, unhealthy oils that have only Omega 6’s, such as vegetable and canola oils.
Unfortunately in our modern diets, most people are including few sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The main dietary sources are the fat of cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish. There are two critical omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are the building blocks for hormones that control immune function, reproduction, blood clotting, and cell growth as well as major components of cell membranes.
Plant-based fat sources, such as chia seeds, avocado and flax seeds are very high in an EPA/DHA precursor called ALA. ALA can be supportive of healthy fat levels, but it’s not in a useable format for the body. In order to use ALA, the body must first go through an expensive conversion process, expending valuable energy and resources converting it into usable EPA and DHA, but unfortunately, even if you eat large amounts of ALA, your body can only convert very small amounts into EPA and DHA, and only when sufficient enzymes are present. This is why it is very difficult for Vegans/Vegetarians to ultimately achieve proper Omega-3 balance, and why we see so many chronic, degenerative, fatty-deficiency-type conditions in those populations. By consuming fish/meat sources of EPA and DHA, your body can skip the expensive conversion process and go straight to absorption, thus the importance of consuming animal-based sources of Omega-3’s.
Like other processed foods, the more processed a fat is, the more dangerous it is to the body. The problem with the common Vegetable oils like corn, soy, safflower, canola, etc. is that they’re heavily processed. They are NOT fresh oils. Basically, to produce them, they have to heat the ingredients to such a high temperature it causes the oil to go rancid. You’d smell that rancidity, so then they undergo a chemical process to deodorize them and when you ingest those oils, an enormous amount of free radicals are introduced into your system, causing huge amounts of damage.
So fat is crucial to your body, but the types/quality of the fats you eat are very important. Fat is what is used to create your cell membranes — if you eat a lot of unstable, damaged oils like vegetable oils, your cells are more prone to damage and faster aging.
So here is your simple plan for healthy eating.
- Eat a small amount of high-quality meat protein daily. This may include wild-caught, cold-water fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, as well as grass-fed, free-range, organic sources of meats, poultry, and eggs.
- Eat a wide variety of fresh, in-season, organic herbs, greens and vegetables every day, and a small-moderate amount of organic fruit.
- Eat plenty of healthy fats! Use only extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil or avocado oil for cooking and avoid all vegetable oils. The best supplemental fats are in cold-pressed oils such as Antarctic Krill Oil.
- Avoid processed carbohydrates! Avoid all processed food for that matter. A good rule of thumb is that if a caveman couldn’t find it, you shouldn’t be eating it. That includes most grains and grain-based foods, since cavemen were hunter/gatherers, not farmers.
So, the good news is that fixing this mess is not as hard as you might think. Follow these few simple rules for selecting your food, and you will be able to eat better-tasting foods, reduce your risk of disease, and feel more satisfied.
This information brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Austin Acupuncturist, Melanie Irvine, L.Ac., MAOM, owner Turning Point Wellness. For more info about how Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine, and natural nutrition can help you achieve vibrant health and well-being. Feel free to visit my website, www.TurningPointAcupuncture.net for more details and direct contact information.
Marlene Merritt, DOM, LAc, ACN, “Big Fat Lies,” Acupuncture Today
December, 2010, Vol. 11, Issue 12, http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=32321
Dr. Al Sears, “Debunking the Low-Fat Myth,” Early To Rise, http://www.earlytorise.com/healthy/debunking-the-low-fat-myth/
American Heart Association January 23, 2008. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3046105
Mercola.com, Cholesterol is NOT the Cause of Heart Disease, Ron Rosedale May 28, 2005 http://www.mercola.com/2005/may/28/cholesterol_heart.htm