HEALTH Q&A

Q: One day fat is bad; the next it’s good. What is the real deal on di­etary fat?

Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - — J. Mey­ers, Philadel­phia

The Truth About Fat What is the real deal on di­etary fat?

A: Once upon a time there was no con­fu­sion about healthy eat­ing. We all knew the rules, even if we didn’t al­ways fol­low them. High com­plex carbs, heavy on the grains, mod­er­ate fish and chicken. Low calo­rie—even lower fat.

But that was then. Emerg­ing sci­ence sug­gests that we were not only wrong about fat, we were spec­tac­u­larly, em­bar­rass­ingly wrong.

It’s clear that our knowl­edge of what fat is, what it does, and what it does not do needs a se­ri­ous up­date. Let’s start by look­ing at three of the big­gest myths re­lated to fat and dis­ease.

MYTH 1: SAT­U­RATED FAT CAUSES HEART DIS­EASE Ac­tu­ally, it doesn’t. There have been sev­eral ma­jor, peer-re­viewed meta-analy­ses in the past decade com­pletely de­bunk­ing the no­tion that sat­u­rated fat is a causal fac­tor in heart dis­ease. In 2010, re­searchers re­viewed 21 stud­ies look­ing for the re­la­tion­ship of di­etary sat­u­rated fat to the risk of coro­nary heart dis­ease. They couldn’t find one. “There is no sig­nif­i­cant ev­i­dence for con­clud­ing that di­etary sat­u­rated fat is as­so­ci­ated with an in­creased risk of CHD (coro­nary heart dis­ease) or CVD (car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease),” they con­cluded.

This lack of as­so­ci­a­tion was con­firmed in sev­eral other stud­ies, no­tably a 2014 re­view in the An­nals of In­ter­nal Medicine, which found no link be­tween sat­u­rated fat con­sump­tion and the risk of heart dis­ease or death. MYTH 2: VEG­ETABLE OILS ARE GOOD Well, not al­ways. Veg­etable oils don’t ac­tu­ally come from veg­eta­bles. They’re pro­cessed from grains such as corn, or from plants such as soy­beans. Those we com­monly use—corn oil, saf­flower oil, sun­flower oil, canola oil—are fre­quently from GMO crops, un­less they are or­ganic. They’re pro­cessed at high heat, of­ten with very harsh chem­i­cals, so by the time they end up on the shelf, there is lit­tle if any nu­tri­tional value in them. What’s more, they are mostly made up of omega-6 fats, which—in the ab­sence of suf­fi­cient omega-3—are pro-in­flam­ma­tory.

MYTH 3: AN­I­MAL PROD­UCTS ARE UN­HEALTHY AND DON’T BE­LONG IN A “CLEAN” DIET. It is true that toxic an­i­mal prod­ucts are un­healthy and don’t be­long in your diet. But note the word “toxic.” Toxic an­i­mal prod­ucts come from an­i­mals that have been raised in un­speak­able con­di­tions, fed an in­flam­ma­tory diet, given mas­sive amounts of an­tibi­otics, in­jected with hor­mones and steroids, and fed grain sprayed with po­ten­tially car­cino­genic chem­i­cals. Most of this meat comes from “fac­tory farms” or CAFOs (con­fined an­i­mal feed­lot op­er­a­tions).

Beef that is 100 per­cent grass-fed and or­ganic is the op­po­site of toxic meat—in fact, it’s a health food. Ab­sent con­fine­ment, the cows graze on their nat­u­ral diet of pas­ture. Their omega-3 con­tent is higher, their (pro-in­flam­ma­tory) omega-6 con­tent lower. They tend to have high con­cen­tra­tions of CLA (con­ju­gated linolenic acid), which has anticancer and anti-obe­sity prop­er­ties.

A NEW WAY OF LOOK­ING AT FAT So the old way of clas­si­fy­ing fat—an­i­mal fat “bad,” veg­etable fat “good”—turns out to be pretty use­less. In our 2016 book, Smart Fat, Steven Masley, MD, and I sug­gest di­vid­ing fat into two cat­e­gories—toxic and non­toxic. The sim­ple take-home? Avoid toxic fat, and don’t worry about the rest.

Man-made trans fats are the poster child for toxic fat, but so are “veg­etable” oils that have been used and reused in a restau­rant, or low-smoke point oils that have been over­heated. And so is any kind of fat that comes from an­i­mals who have been fed steroids, hor­mones, and an­tibi­otics. Avoid toxic fats, re­gard­less of their ori­gin, and em­brace clean fats.

Speak­ing of “good for us,” here are some of the valu­able ben­e­fits of fat you need to know about.

WEIGHT LOSS Peo­ple are of­ten sur­prised that di­etary fat helps them lose body fat. That’s be­cause we’ve been taught that weight loss is all about calo­ries, and, it’s true, fat has more calo­ries (9 per gram) than carbs or pro­tein (4 calo­ries per gram). But it’s hor­mones—not calo­ries —that drive weight gain and weight loss. In­sulin causes our body to store fat, and it’s pumped up by sugar and car­bo­hy­drates. Pro­tein raises in­sulin lev­els a lit­tle, but not nearly as much as carbs do.

You know what doesn’t move the nee­dle on in­sulin at all? Fat.

HOR­MONAL HEALTH Leptin is the hor­mone that tells your brain to stop eat­ing when you’re full. In over­weight peo­ple, this sig­nal­ing mech­a­nism doesn’t al­ways work well. Your brain be­comes “leptin re­sis­tant”— leptin is scream­ing, “Stop eat­ing!” but the brain just doesn’t hear the mes­sage.

Leptin re­sis­tance is trig­gered by too many re­fined carbs. Mean­while, those same carbs—through the in­flu­ence of in­sulin—cause you to store more fat. It’s a dou­ble whammy. Less sugar and less re­fined carbs—to­gether with more fat, fiber, and pro­tein—is the per­fect pre­scrip­tion for get­ting your leptin sys­tem work­ing again.

It’s also the per­fect pre­scrip­tion for man­ag­ing an­other hor­mone, cor­ti­sol. Cor­ti­sol— known as the “fight or flight” hor­mone—causes your blood sugar to rise, which trig­gers a re­lease of fat-stor­ing in­sulin. Cor­ti­sol also causes the body to store fat around the mid­dle. The so­lu­tion? More fat, fiber, and pro­tein, less carbs and sugar!

IN­FLAM­MA­TION In­flam­ma­tion has been iden­ti­fied as one of the ma­jor pro­mot­ers of just about ev­ery de­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease from heart dis­ease to Alzheimer’s. That’s why nu­tri­tion ex­perts rec­om­mend an anti- in­flam­ma­tory diet. And two of the most anti-in­flam­ma­tory sub­stances are both fats—olive oil, and omega-3s (from fish and flax).

BRAIN HEALTH There’s re­cently been a flood of in­ter­est in ke­to­genic di­ets, which are ba­si­cally high-fat di­ets that can be very good for the brain. One Mayo Clinic study fol­lowed 937 cog­ni­tively nor­mal adults for about four years, keep­ing track of what they ate. Those who ate the most car­bo­hy­drates had an 89 per­cent in­crease in risk for cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment, while those who ate the most sat­u­rated fat had a 36 per­cent re­duc­tion in risk. “We should in­crease our con­sump­tion of fat while we decrease our con­sump­tion of car­bo­hy­drates,” says in­te­gra­tive neu­rol­o­gist David Perl­mut­ter, MD. THE TAKE-AWAY Years ago, long-dis­tance run­ner and ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist Stu Mit­tle­man told me, “You gotta eat fat to burn fat.” He was right. Fat is a great source of en­ergy, it cush­ions and pro­tects the or­gans, it de­liv­ers fatty acids to the brain, and it does not stim­u­late fat-stor­ing hor­mones.

The trick is to use fat wisely. Choose non­toxic fats. Swap out those high-omega-6 oils for some omega-9s (macadamia nut oil) or healthy sat­u­rated fats. Cook at tem­per­a­tures be­low smoke point. (Ghee and avo­cado oil stand up to 500 de­grees.)

Add that healthy fat to a diet that’s high in fiber, mod­er­ate in clean pro­tein—no­tice I didn’t say lean—and throw in some nuts, berries, red wine, and choco­late for good mea­sure.

Wel­come fat back into your diet. It re­ally shouldn’t have left.

By Jonny Bow­den, PhD, CNS

Ghee con­tains CLA, a polyun­sat­u­rated fat that stud­ies show may in­duce fat loss.

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