Monday, November 28, 2011

FACT: Eating Fat Does Not Translate Into Getting Fat

I wanted to write this as a follow-up to 'Tis the Season to Get Fat, because I know a lot of people have the misconception that you will loose weight by eating low-fat foods. This is a very complicated topic so I will boil it down for you as best I can.

Everything that you eat breaks down into 3 different components: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. (There are many other things like vitamins and minerals that we get from food, however for the sake of this discussion I will be focusing on these three.) Your body needs all three of these to function properly, and your body knows the difference between the good forms and the bad forms.

Let's talk specifically about fat. I grew up being told that fat was bad for you and anything fat-free was healthy. It all started long before I was born...
"The demonization of saturated fat began in 1953, when Dr. Ancel Keys published a paper comparing saturated fat intake and heart disease mortality. His theory turned out to be flimsy, to say the least, but the misguided ousting of saturated fat has continued unabated ever since. Fortunately, the truth is finally starting to come out, as medical scientists have begun to seriously question Keys' findings."
"Keys based his theory on a study of six countries, in which higher saturated fat intake equated to higher rates of heart disease. However, he conveniently ignored data from 16 other countries that did not fit his theory. Had he chosen a different set of countries, the data would have shown that increasing the percent of calories from fat reduces the number of deaths from coronary heart disease."
"And when you include all 22 countries for which data was available at the time of his study, you find that those who consume the highest percentage of saturated fat have the lowest risk of heart disease."
"Furthermore, many have now realized that it's the trans fat found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that is the true villain, causing far more significant health problems than saturated fat ever could!"
"Still, despite the scientific evidence, the low-fat dogma remains a favorite among most government health authorities. Case in point: the most recent food chart issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in December of last year, recommends reducing your saturated fat intake to a mere seven percent of caloric intake—down from its previously recommended 10 percent…" (Original Source)
I don't like citing studies to back up my opinions (mainly because I do not trust that the results are accurate due to biases), but I respect the information that Dr. Mercola puts out (excerpt from above). I am far more impressed with personal experiences, trials, and tribulations. So let me tell you about what I have been doing. I eat full fat everything, but I also eat mainly whole foods. I eat organic butter, organic dairy, I eat whole eggs, I eat avocados, I eat all nuts, and just about anything else you could think of that is considered "fattening". Moderation is key here. Since I started doing this about a year ago, I have lost about 10 lbs. I workout a few times a week, and I eat mainly whole foods- meaning I eat mostly un-processed foods- meaning I make most of my food from scratch and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. I still use flour and eat pasta, but try to always eat whole wheat/grain if it is processed.

Back to fat...I read an entire book dedicated to explaining fat that was written by Mary G. Enig, PhD. She is a nutritionist/biochemist who has spent her career studying and analyzing fat. My understanding of good and bad fats started when I read Mary's book, Know Your Fats.
"As we close the second millennium, the prevailing clinical approach from both the nutrition and medical communities in the United States is to condemn a high dietary intake of almost all fats. This emphasis on reducing dietary fat intake has developed from concerns about diet/serum cholesterol, coronary heart disease (CHD) and dietary fat/cancer relationships that have emanated from organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA), the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute's National Cholesterol Education Program, and the US Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines. Many official and quasi-official, articles and publications written for the public reflect this view. Unfortunately, for the consumer and the clinician, many of these articles have multiple misstatements about fats, oils, and cholesterol in general, and about the hydrogenated fats and oils in particular. The kindest thing that can be said about the authors of these misstatements is that they are misguided and not sufficiently knowledgeable about the chemistry of fats and oils and hydrogenation."
FYI...this is a technical definition of fat straight out of her book, "Fats and oils (technically called lipids) are basically made up of collections of molecules called triglycerides. If the collection is liquid at ambient (room) temperature, it is called an oil; if it is solid, it is called a fat." She gets way technical and I figured that I would lose the majority of you on this, but if you are really interested I suggest reading the book for yourself.

Below are some common misconceptions from Know Your Fats...

  • Calling animal fats "saturated" is not only misleading, it is just plain wrong. For example, beef fat is 54% unsaturated, lard is 60% unsaturated, and chicken fat is 70% unsaturated. 
  • None of the naturally occurring fats and oils is made up of only all saturated or all unsaturated fatty acids; rather they are mixtures of different amounts of various fatty acids. 
  • The food industry knows that cookies and crackers, as well as cakes, pastries, and donuts have to be made with a fat at least as firm as a soft fat like lard, so the industry changes the liquid oils, such as soybean, corn, canola, cottonseed, and sometimes peanut and safflower oils, into fats by a process called partial hydrogenation. 
  • Partial hydrogenation increases the degree of "saturation" of the fat and has created an entirely new class of fats called trans fats. Trans fats have a very, very long shelf life, unlike the original, highly unsaturated oils they were made from. The unsaturated oils become rancid (bad, spoiled, you wouldn't want to eat them) easily if they are not stored very carefully...a-hem...this is why your box of Ritz crackers can sit on a grocery store shelf for months and then in your cabinet for months!

  • The word Omega is used to designate unsaturated fatty acid families. Saturated fats (cocoa butter, dairy fats, nutmeg butter, palm oil, tallow) do not have an Omega designation. Omega 3's and 6's are considered "essential" because our bodies cannot make them. There are also Omega 9's, however our bodies can make them so they are  not considered "essential"
  • Saturated fatty acids are not all the same. They come in different lengths. The shorter ones of the type found in butter, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil, have much lower melting points than the more common longer chain saturated fatty acids ( ). 
  • When shorter chain fatty acids are used by the body for energy, they do not produce as many calories as the longer chain fatty acids. This is why there are fewer kilocalories in a pound of butter than a pound of margarine made with seed oils. While this difference in calories is small, it is still significant because most people have been lead to believe that butter has more calories than margarine. 

Here are just a handful of examples of what trans fats do to us when we eat them... (P.S. after I read this book I cut out all foods that have hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in them)
  • When people eat fats containing trans fatty acids (hydrogenated oils), these fatty acids are deposited in varying amounts in some of the tissues, and they have an effect on the way the organs in the body function. 
  • Feeding trans fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to adult humans lowers HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
  • HDL is significantly decreased, LDL is increased, and the more recent studies have shown that the heart disease marker called Lipoprotein [a] is increased, especially in people who already have high levels of this lipoprotein.
  • INTERESTING...saturated fatty acids lower Lipoprotein [a] levels, so an adequate amount of saturated fatty acids in the diet is a good thing to have.
  • Consuming trans fats raises the blood sugar levels and causes people to weigh several kilograms more than people consuming the same amount of fat that is not hydrogenated. 
  • When researchers have examined the fat in milk that mothers are producing, they have found up to 17% of the fatty acids as trans fatty acids. That is very high, but when they measured the levels in mothers who were not eating foods with trans fatty acids, the levels were so low that they found less than 1%. 
  • Feeding infants with milk containing trans fatty acids that came in through the mother's diet causes a significant decrease in visual acuity. 
The bottom line is that we eat a lot more unhealthy fats than we realize. It would be safe to say that anything fried at a restaurant has been fried in partially hydrogenated oil. It is also safe to say that the majority of the snack foods, deserts, and baked goods that you buy have partially hydrogenated oils in them. Even some "health" foods include this disaster of an ingredient in CHECK YOUR LABELS! Start incorporating more homemade meals with whole foods. If you are pregnant or breast feeding it is soooo important to eat foods without hydrogenated oils (or high fructose corn syrup) in them. It's one thing to knowingly do something to yourself (many of us do it everyday- we smoke, we drink, we eating garbage) but it is another to do it to your perfect baby. (I don't want to make you feel like I am talking down to you or making you feel guilty...but TOO BAD I AM! DON'T FEED YOUR CHILDREN TOXIC GARBAGE...THINK FOR YOURSELF...DO YOUR OWN DAMN RESEARCH...BE AWARE!)

I am giving you the Jess Face (with perfect hair)
Do you worry about eating too much fat?

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