The Truth About Fat

The Truth About Fat

Despite a seemingly healthy low-fat diet and plenty of exercise, many people still gain weight, experience fatigue, or have brain fog. At first, it's written off as a normal part of aging. But when a shift is made to more fat in the diet, not less — the changes are surprising.

We've been told that fat is unhealthy, it raises cholesterol levels, and therefore, it causes heart attacks. These initial assumptions are based on association, not correlation. For example, if saturated fat increases cholesterol (A causes B) and high cholesterol causes heart disease (B causes C), then this means that saturated fat causes heart disease (A causes C).

However, the latest research suggests that the true picture is more complicated than that. Notwithstanding this growing evidence, the dietary guidelines set forth from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) still recommend fat-free or low-fat foods.

This advice is unscientific and may also be dangerous. This article takes a look at the benefits of fat and what happens if you don't eat enough.

Fat Myths Debunked

The message we receive from public health and professional organizations is that all calories are the same — weight loss is about math — calories in equals calories out. This myth is debunked when you start to compare the quality versus the quantity of the calories. The 200 calories in a pastry are not the same as the 200 calories from an avocado. This is only the beginning of the current perception of fat in our diets.

Moreover, recent studies may have a strong influence on policymakers to reevaluate their position against full-fat dairy. The latest research conclusively establishes that full-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, and butter may help protect, not harm, your heart; yet, people spend billions on low-fat foods, drinks, and cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

The levels of fatty acids specific to dairy fat(1) were observed in nearly 3,000 volunteers for 22 years. Researchers conclude that high levels of "bad" saturated fats — the ones that are blamed for causing heart disease — didn't negatively affect the heart. In fact, people with high levels of one such "bad" fatty acid present in milk were 42% less likely to die from a stroke, which suggests that it has a protective mechanism.

A different study found that out of 3,300 people, the individuals with the highest intake of full-fat dairy products(2) had a 46% decrease in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people with low-fat dairy.

Controversy remains, but large reviews of observational research, randomized trials, and blood-level data have not found a link between saturated fat or total fat and heart disease.

Yet the recommendation to limit saturated fat because it raised total cholesterol and LDL, "bad" cholesterol remains. What's typically left out of this equation is that it also raises HDL, "good" cholesterol, and it increases cholesterol particle size. Therefore, you can actually get a net benefits.

How Does Fat Benefit Our Bodies

Efficient fuel source. Fat is an essential nutrient. The fats we eat give our body the energy that it needs to function properly. During exercise, the body uses calories from carbohydrates — that is unless you are following a ketogenic diet(3). But after the body exhausts the carb source, exercise depends on the energy from fat to keep us going.

Aids memory and learning. A diet high in foods with monounsaturated fats, such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts, leads to healthy cell membranes and an increase in the production of acetylcholine(4). Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is critical for memory and learning.

Nutrient absorption. Eating fat-free can lead to a number of health problems. Specifically, vitamin deficiencies because some vitamins require fat to be absorbed and to do their jobs, which include energy production, keeping cells functioning, and supporting the immune system. Fat helps to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K, the fat-soluble vitamins.

Provides fatty acids
. The fats the body gets from food gives the body essential fatty acids(5) called linoleic and linolenic acid. These are called essential because the body cannot make them on its own, or function without them. Our bodies need them for brain development, blood clotting, and controlling inflammation.

Satiety
. If we're not eating a balanced diet, then the body is going to attempt to make it up somewhere. For example, if we're not getting enough fat the body isn’t getting the fuel it needs. People who eat less fat tend to eat more carbs — and the combination of more carbs with less fat can lead feeling hungry more often.

Production of hormones
. A lack of dietary fat can lead to a hormonal imbalance. Cholesterol is not only an important part of our cell membranes but it also is needed for the creation of hormones. Pregnenolone(6) is directly synthesized from cholesterol, which is a precursor to estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and other hormones.

In my practice, we guide people through the successful release of their excess weight and to the maintenance of their healthy weight for life, by educating and providing a road map to a ketogenic nutritional plan, where the importance of fat is paramount.

References

(1) https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/108/3/476/5052139
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27006479
(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5102124/
(4) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-brain-food/201205/dietary-fats-improve-brain-function
(5) https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/essential-fatty-acids#introduction
(6) https://books.google.com/books?id=R0W1ErpsQpkC&pg=PA883#v=onepage&q&f=false

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