Rage Against the Diet Industry #2: Fat

I’m so fed up with diet advice. I’m tired of people and companies peddling their solution to the spare tire around my waist. And I’m tired of the media hawking nutrition/health related news with fear tactics. 

In the spirit of being fed up, I’m going to rage against some of the more ridiculousness assertions of the diet industry and hopefully supply a little reason.

Okay, so we hear a lot in the news about the evils of saturated and trans fat. Trans fat, I’m not going to argue with. However, I think in 10-20 years (maybe in a few months), we’re going to see a reversal on the opinion of saturated fats.

If you’ve read Gary Taubes book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” he makes a strong argument against the villainization of saturated fats. He’s also written articles and submissions for the NY Times, talking about studies that he’s been following and reviewing.

Essentially, these studies can’t prove saturated fat is the villain. A recent Israeli study compared the low-fat diet to an Atkin’s-like diet and a Mediterranean diet. Both Atkin’s and the Mediterranean diet showed a larger weight loss than the low-fat diet and they decreased cholesterol numbers more than the low-fat diet. Oddly, the Atkin’s-like diet appears to have edged out the Med -diet in it’s cholesterol lowering benefits, all with a 25% higher intake in saturated fat than the Med-diet.

Plus, saturated fat does a lot of things to help your body function:

  • it maintains the structure and rigidity of our cells
  • it regulates enzymes and hormones
  • it aids the absorption of calcium into our bones (boo on low fat dairy)
  • it boosts immune function
  • it’s the precursor to critical hormones such as vitamin D, cortisol, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, as well as bile acids which are necessary for the digestion of fats
  • it carries fat soluble vitamins (the antioxidant vitamins), like vitamin A, E, D, K, and a low fat diet can lead to deficiencies in these nutrients
  • it aids in utilizing omega 3 fatty acids easily
  • and breast milk is high in saturated fat for a reason – it is vital for the healthy development of the baby!

Plus, the guy that initially promoted the idea of low-fat diets, Ancel Keys, basically doctored the results of the study he conducted to assert that low-fat diets are good.

And not that I’m scientific proof, but it seems the more fat I incorporate into a diet consisting of whole foods, the better my cholesterol is. Today I went to the doctor for an annual physical and we checked my cholesterol numbers. My good cholesterol somehow jumped 7 pts in just a few months while I ate a diet consisting of more than 30% of my calories from fat. Rock on! 

In general, it’s time to stop freaking out about fat, saturated fat, and really, about food in general. When we begin thinking that packaged, chemically altered food is a better choice over an avocado or a handful of nuts, something is off.

Other links of interest:

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