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Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Eating Fat Makes You Fat"... Does it?

Our friends at the USDA recommend 20-35% of my Caloric intake come from fat. During my one month "One Ingredient Diet" my Caloric intake was on average 48% fat. So if "eating fat makes you fat" then why did I lose 14lb in one month?

Here are just a few examples of other people that eat a lot of fat and live lean, healthy lives.

"OK Mike, fat doesn't necessarily make you fat but what about heart disease? Aren't you afraid all that fat is clogging your arteries?"

Thank you loyal reader of my blog for asking that question. Lets delve into that point...
"The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" recently posted an article on "The role of reducing intakes of saturated fat in the prevention of cardiovascular disease: where does the evidence stand in 2010?"
  • "substituting Polyunsaturated fatty acids for saturated fatty acids is beneficial for lowering total and LDL cholesterol and for Coronary Heart Disease prevention"
  • "there is no evidence to support the benefit of substituting refined carbohydrates for saturated fatty acids." (The big issue with diets that substitute carbohydrates for saturated fat is the carbohydrates are refined and processed carbohydrates, not fruits and vegetables)
  • "Insufficient evidence exists to judge the effect on Coronary Heart Disease risk of replacing saturated fatty acids with monounsaturated fatty acids."
  • "No clear association was shown between intake of saturated fatty acids and insulin resistance and diabetes risk"
  • "Industrially produced trans fatty acids are consistently associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease, trans fatty acids intakes are associated with a higher risk than are saturated fatty acids, but the lowest risk was found for diets high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and low in trans fatty acids."
That last quote sums it up quite nicely. Trans fatty acids are the big killer. You find trans fatty acids in foods like...
There are other more obvious examples, but I wanted to highlight the above examples because they are all marketed as "natural" or "heart healthy" products. How exactly can the above examples be heart healthy if it has been proven that trans fatty acids cause coronary heart disease? Don't be fooled by marketing!

There are a couple ways to determine if a food contains trans fats. Look at the ingredient list; if "partially hydrogenated oil" is one of the ingredients then it contains trans fat. Also, most fried foods contain high amounts of trans fats.

There is no evidence to suggest that replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat is heart healthy:

Foods high in monounsaturated fats such as Olive Oil, Avocados, and Nuts are very good for you. They are all natural, unprocessed foods. It is very important to include such foods in your diet. The point is that we are told all the time to eat more monounsaturated fats, also considered the "good fat", and less saturated fat because monounsaturated fat is "better for our hearts". BUT the evidence does not prove that theory!

There is no evidence to suggest replacing saturated fat with refined carbohydrates is heart healthy:

Now we get into an interesting discussion. In my post about "low carbohydrate" diets I asked the question "what exactly would the USDA like me to consume in order to reach their carbohydrate recommendations?" I had consumed more fiber than recommended and met most of the vitamin and mineral recommendations. In order to reach the USDA's daily carbohydrate recommendation of 45-65% of total Caloric intake I would have to replace at least 20% of my fat intake (saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated) with refined carbohydrates (pasta, breads, cereals...).

hmmm? Now I'm confused. The USDA is telling me to eat less fat and more carbohydrates because it is better for my heart. BUT the evidence tells me that eating more carbohydrates and less fat is not better for my heart... I think I will stick to the evidence.

Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat has been proven to reduce heart disease:

YAY! We finally found some proof! I have no argument here. We should all be eating foods that contain lots of polyunsaturated fats. Foods such as salmon, nuts and seeds. BUT do you know what other foods contain a high amount of polyunsaturated fats? Organic Eggs, Grass Fed Beef and Free Range Chicken.

Notice I wrote "Grass Fed Beef" and "Free Range Chicken". Polyunsaturated fat decreases in cattle, pork and chickens the longer they are grain fed. The beef, pork and chicken most of us consume is fed grain for most, if not all, of the animal's life. This equates to very low polyunsaturated fat levels in the meat.

So am I afraid "all that fat is clogging my arteries"? Not even a little bit! My diet consisted of no trans fat and only grass fed, free range and organic meats and eggs. All of which contain very high amounts of polyunsaturated fats which have been proven to fight against heart disease.

Are you eating enough polyunsaturated fats? Do you prefer grass fed beef and free range chickens over farm raised meats?

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