We’ve all seen the labels and commercials…”now available in reduced fat!” Or, you can have several of these cookies because they’re “low fat!” How about the advice given to you by your doctors and even nutritionists all these years……”choose low fat dairy products, watch your total fat intake, and avoid saturated fat or you’ll get heart disease.” Nowadays you hear people preaching the opposite and telling you that in fact, fat isn’t the enemy anymore.
Are you completely confused about whether you should cut the fat from your diet or try to add more in? As my father would say “is my butter back in good graces with the nutrition community or is it considered bad again?” It seems the messages are mixed and can leave you stumped in the grocery aisles. If you feel this way, you’re not alone.
So, why do hear that fat is bad for you, raises your cholesterol, and causes heart attacks? It all started in the Dr. Key’s Seven Countries Study that looked at heart disease risk based on lifestyle and dietary habits. The study found that countries that consumed more dietary fat, especially saturated fat, had a higher incidence of heart disease and concluded that fat caused the disease. The huge problem with this study is that the conclusion was flawed; the heart disease rate was not caused by the fat consumption. Correlation is not always causation.
We are now learning that sugar is the true culprit. Recently, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (one of the leading research journals in nutrition), just published a review of all of the research on saturated fat and found there was NO correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. Additionally, a recent editorial in a prestigious medical journal just made the same point and stated that dietary fat intake does not cause obesity and heart disease. So, why does your doctor still hammer home the point to reduce dietary saturated fat intake to lower your cholesterol? It’s true that lowering saturated fat intake lowers cholesterol, however, it lowers the good kind of cholesterol that isn’t the problem.
The problem is that when people eat less fat, they tend to eat more starch and sugar to satiate their appetite. The starch and sugar cause a release of a fat storage hormone, insulin. That’s right, eating more starch and sugar causes you to release a hormone that tells your body to “store fat.” The high starch and sugar intake also causes a rise in the bad kinds of cholesterol. Studies have repeatedly shown that around 75% of people that present to the ER with a heart attack do not have high cholesterol….but they do have pre-diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes.
So, here it is in a nutshell: Fat doesn’t make you fat. Don’t cut the fat, cut the sugar and starches. I encourage you to add healthy sources of fat to your meals. Ideas include: grass-fed meats, avocado, cooking with coconut oil, nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and fatty fish like sardines and wild salmon. Choosing whole, fresh foods and adding in high quality sources of fat is your ticket to a slimmer, trimmer, and healthier you.