Is Dietary Fat Where It’s At?

DietaryFatsJacquie Eubanks RN BSN



What is considered good health? Good health can be defined as having normal blood glucose levels, normal blood pressure levels, normal body fat percentage and favorable cholesterol levels, all without medications. Taking medications to lower cholesterol or blood pressure levels or to control glucose levels does not mean we are healthy. According to Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of the book Reversing Disease with Food, “If you are on medications to control risk factors, you are already at risk. Your risk of having a heart attack is directly proportional to the number of medications you are taking. It’s not whether your blood pressure or cholesterol is controlled, it’s the number of medications you need to control it that determines your risk.”

Healthy people don’t require medications to keep their risk factors low. While necessary in some cases, medication is disease management not healthcare. Being well means removing or reversing disease risk factors with a healthy diet and lifestyle not masking them with medication. The most critical information we need to control our health and longevity is proper science-based nutrition. One major problem is the epidemic of misinformation that has led to the skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and the general poor health of the American population. The truth is that an unhealthy diet is responsible for most chronic diseases.

The good news is that chronic disease is not inevitable. Many people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease turn their health around with healthy lifestyle adjustments. Chronic disease can take many years to develop but the benefits of good nutrition can be seen within a short period of time, and eating well can quickly make an improved health difference. There is a growing awareness that we need to radically change our dietary patterns. But what does this mean exactly? For one thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go on a weight loss diet, rather you might stop counting calories and start eating more unrefined fiber-rich plant foods and more high nutrient dense foods, especially healthy fats.

Since 1977, dietary guidelines have recommended limiting dietary fats and cholesterol to lower the rates of cardiovascular disease. The epidemic of misinformation surrounding dietary fats and dietary cholesterol has had a profound and deleterious effect on public health. To date, cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death in the U.S. And while there is still confusion and controversy over recommendations for a healthy diet, we now know that certain dietary fats should be cleared of all charges relating to heart disease causation. Along with protein and complex carbohydrates, dietary fat is an essential macronutrient that provides energy and supports brain health and bodily functions.

With the exception of the last 40 years, humans have always had diets that included nutrient dense dietary fats. It was misguided science that directed us to limit fat intake. The obesity epidemic began when we embraced the low fat diet and replaced fats with carbohydrates. So the new question is, “What if dietary fat doesn’t make you fat?” What if the real culprits behind the rise of chronic illnesses are sugar and refined carbohydrates? And what if you could eat more dietary fats while losing weight and improving your health? Today, good science and research tells us that healthy fats are an important part of a well-balanced diet.

The truth is, when you are looking to lose weight, calorie restricted diets do not lead to long term weight loss. Losing weight is not really about willpower. It’s about satiety and giving your body the nutrients it needs to function and perform optimally. Calorie restriction leads to hunger and a slower metabolism, and then even more caloric reduction to lose weight. The best way to lose weight and maintain weight loss is to lower your body weight set point to improve metabolism with less hunger. You can positively influence your fat cells by eliminating fast acting carbohydrates, replacing those calories with slow acting carbs, fats and protein, reducing stress, getting quality sleep and participating in an enjoyable physical activity to improve insulin sensitivity.

According to David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of Pediatric Endocrinology at Boston Children’s Hospital and author of the book Always Hungry, “Highly processed carbohydrates digest quickly into glucose, raise insulin levels and program the body to store excess weight. Reducing these foods and substituting healthy fats, such as avocados, coconut and olive oil, nuts and dark chocolate, along with natural complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, legumes and minimally processed grains, will lower insulin levels and reprogram fat cells for calorie release, not storage.” Dr. Ludwig contends that we should eat a largely plant based diet with small amounts of good quality grass fed or wild caught animal based protein along with a relatively high intake of healthy fats.

In conclusion, he states, “One human diet works for heart, brain and immune health. A diet that is low in refined carbs and sugar, high in fat and very high in prebiotic fiber reduces inflammation, caters to microbiome and immune functions and nurtures the gut.” Leading edge research shows we need to consume more fats and the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee concurred. Higher fat diets have been shown to have a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia and a study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that 500,000 persons eating the highest levels of saturated fats had no increased incidence of coronary artery events.

Food can be a powerful medicine, not only for reaching optimal weight but also for reducing disease risk factors. Diets lower in refined carbs and higher in fats have been shown to improve heart disease and stroke risk factors, decrease blood pressure, triglycerides, visceral obesity and abdominal circumference, decrease inflammation markers and raise HDL cholesterol, all without hunger and, best of all, without medications.

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Dr. David Ludwig clears up carbohydrate confusion.
Dr. Mark Hyman: 10 Reasons Why You Should Eat Fat to Get Thin.
Aseem Malhotra: The idea that you can exercise your way out of obesity is a big fat lie.
Sugar is now enemy number one in the western diet.
How did we come to believe saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for us?
Essential fatty acids and human brain.

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