Fat, Let’s Break Up, Or Maybe Not

 In Diet, Fat

Why does fat get a bad rep if it keeps us alive?

Fat is one of the three macronutrients (fats, protein and carbohydrates). Fat is vital for bodily processes such as transport, conversion, digestion and energy extraction and contains thrice the amount of energy provided by a single glucose molecule. Our brains and bodies cannot survive without fat.

The 80s and 90s were the decades of the fat-free fad. It was believed that eliminating fat from our diets would give us that Baywatch bod. Unfortunately, fat-free food products such as cookies, cheese and crackers were not satiating. They only made us hungrier and eat double if not triple the amount we would normally consume!

Yes, fat keeps us full longer which certainly helps curb cravings. To make matters worse, food manufacturers substituted “missing” fat with extra sugar to enhance the flavour. Needless to say, we ate more. Frank Hu, MD, PhD, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health says, “The low-fat message backfired… It led to a proliferation of products loaded with sugar, refined carbohydrates and calories.” Clearly, we had bitten off more than we could chew. No pun intended.

The Good Kind of Fat

Source: Metzger

These days, dietary experts have promoted the move away from eating less fat to eating the right fat which means there is good and bad fat. Good fats consist of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Monounsaturated fats are present in food such as canola, olive, peanut oils and avocados and polyunsaturated fats are present in certain plan and animal food sources such as salmon and walnuts (high in Omega-3s), soya bean, corn and sunflower oils, walnuts and flaxseeds. These two types of fat have received gold stars as they have been shown to lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Source: Theresa Garnero

We have come to believe that saturated fat is the villain  — this from conventional wisdom which dates back to Ancel Keys’ 1950s (Talk about outdated) published article which basically cherry picked data to frame saturated fat as bad fat. Key’s theory was based off data from six countries, which showed that higher saturated fat intake increases the risk of heart disease. Of course, he had to conveniently omit research findings from 16 other countries that presented saturated fats favourably. 

Had he been a little more ethical and taken into account data from all 22 countries during the time of his study, we would have a very different perspective of saturated fat and its real potential in reducing the risk of cardiovascular heart disease.

Source: For Eats Sake Nutrition

Unfortunately, it is difficult for humans like you and I to let go of our firmly held beliefs when new contradictory evidence presents itself. Trust the medical and nutrition “experts”, they say… C’mon. How many of us still believe saturated fat present in food sources such as dairy, meat, certain plant products increases our bad cholesterol and risk of heart disease and stroke? Recent literature has muddled if not completely massacred the widely accepted and propagated causal link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease.

A recent systematic review examining the associations between the intake of saturated fat and trans unsaturated fat and all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease (CHD) and associated mortality, stroke and type 2 diabetes published some interesting findings! These researchers found that saturated fats are not associated with mortality, CHD, stroke or type 2 diabetes.

 

Source: Ramirez

However, they found that “industrial” trans fats are associated with all cause mortality, total CHD, CHD mortality. Although the review failed to completely vindicate saturated fat from its “villainous” reputation, the danger of trans fat was indisputable. Trans fat, a newly recruited gang member of BAD FATS has dominated convenience / processed foods and fast food has been said to increase bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and lower our good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), the type of cholesterol that prevents bad cholesterol from accumulating in the body. Ditch the margarine for butter!

Interestingly, despite having taken into account the scientific evidence and rigorous scrutiny of the causal links between dietary fat and CVD, the American Heart Association continues to advocate that lowering the intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, will lower the incidence of CVD. Conservative, nonetheless but not exactly “factual” or necessarily the best roll out of information to the public.

Other researchers have also found that CVD risk can be reduced if saturated fats are replaced with whole grains, but not refined carbohydrates and substituting saturated fats with protein, especially plant protein, may also reduce CVD risk. While dairy fat (e.g., milk, cheese) is associated with a slightly lower CVD risk compared to meat, dairy fat results in a significantly greater CVD risk relative to unsaturated fatty acids.

Hold on! Something smells a little fishy! Why are these experts still disregarding the benefits of saturated fat?

Source: Cartoon Stock

Saturated Fat: Falsely convicted of a crime it did not commit

Unlocked (Hidden) Potential of Saturated Fat:

  1. Keeps our hearts healthy and improves our cholesterol profile by lowering lipoprotein little-a or Lp (a) which correlates highly with the risk of heart disease.
  2. Helps us regulate our appetites, curb cravings and lose weight simply because saturated fat is very satiating compared to carbohydrates.
  3. Clears fat from the liver. A healthy liver means healthier metabolism.
  4. Maintains brain health, central nervous system functioning and hormone production. Yes! Our brains comprise mostly fat and cholesterol.
  5. Strengthens our immune systems and reduces the risk of illnesses. Don’t forget that fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K require fat in order to be absorbed by the body.
  6. Improves our bone health and reduces our risk of osteoporosis. Mary Enig, Ph.D, an expert in dietary fats and human health has provided a solid case for including as much as 50% of saturated fat in your diet to maintain bone mineral density which declines in middle age.

In a Nutshell…

No, your relationship with FAT is not necessarily toxic. Unsaturated Fat is a keeper. Ditch Trans Fat, please! The potential of Saturated Fat may not have been unlocked by the medical and nutrition communities but you and I both know that the corporate food industry and government agencies are behind this propaganda and demonising of saturated fat. Ask members of traditional cultures and they would tell you their secret.

Saturated fat is a keeper and is necessary for true vitality!

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