Health: Fear not the fat

It is not fat, but carbohydrates in your diet that are the real enemy.


It is not fat, but carbohydrates in your diet that are the real enemy. DESIGN : KIRAN SHAHID

Fat-free living might not always be the smartest option. For the past several decades, the consumption of dietary fat, especially saturated fat, has been disparaged as the cause of many ailments like cardiovascular disease and obesity. However, this conventional wisdom has been challenged by recent studies, claiming that fat was blamed for all the wrong reasons. 

A myth

“Compelling argument can be made for the general lack of evidence in support of a low-fat diet,” emphasises Dr DiNicolantonio, a leading cardiovascular researcher in the United States, in his research article in the journal Open Heart. He admits that doctors in the past “got it wrong,” and that we “have been led down the wrong dietary path for decades.”

The fear seems to have stemmed from the multi-country studies completed in the ’70s that purportedly found that populations with increased intake of saturated fat were also at increased risk of heart disease. However, new analysis of the previous studies has found several flaws with the study methodology, and among them is the failure to take into account a few critical variables such as smoking. More importantly, it is also noted that people who followed standard advice and substituted vegetable fat for animal fat died sooner than people who stuck to the traditional saturated fats of butter and lard.

Fats triumph over carbs

The body has HDL (good cholestrol) and LDL (bad cholestrol) and it was long thought that increased consumption of saturated fat increases LDL cholestrol, contributing to cardiovascular disease. However, according to the newer understanding of nutrition, the LDL cholestrol is further subdivided into big floaty particles (type A) and small dense particles (type B). When someone reduces cholestrol by reducing consumption of saturated fat, they are reducing only type A cholestrol. But it is actually the type B cholestrol that is linked to increase in cardiovascular disease and it is controlled by carbohydrate consumption, rather than fat consumption.

Inverting the food pyramid on its head entirely, the problem then seems to be with carbohydrate consumption. This is the thesis Dr DiNicolantonio is advancing in his work. “A public health campaign is drastically needed to educate people about the harms of a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar,” he says.

Go good fat

Saturated fat is now touted to be beneficial to people in several capacities. It has been established as monumental to liver health by encouraging the liver to dump fat cells to function more efficiently. It seemingly also plays an important role in regulating the immune and the hormonal system. The shift in dietary perception of fat is already being seen through the world, with Sweden becoming the first country to steer its population to a high-fat and low-carb diet in the year 2013.

In Pakistan, adopting the new dietary guidelines may mean as little as abandoning the latest margarine and vegetable oil products and embracing the traditional ghee and animal fat for cooking. The new research also promotes that newer industrialised products may not hold the key to longevity over an all-natural traditional diet. Of course, one still needs to be careful with avoiding trans-fats and overly generous portions.

Good fats

Monounsaturated fat

Olive oil

Canola oil

Sunflower oil

Peanut oil

Sesame oil

Avocados

Olives

Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)

Peanut butter

Polyunsaturated fat

Soybean oil

Corn oil

Safflower oil

Walnuts

Sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds

Flaxseed

Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)

Soymilk

Tofu 

Omar Hayat is a freelance writer who contributes to several local publications. 

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, March 30th, 2014.

COMMENTS (2)

ivor cummins | 7 years ago | Reply

Hi David

Excellent clarification, and I couldn't agree more; I've focused my studies primarily on the cholesterol side of the problem, but the w6:w3 ratio is a key component of the food pyramid mess. You or others might be interested in a draft slidepack for a seminar I'm giving shortly - gives a high level summary of "The Cholesterol Conundrum", and a little detail on how the synergies play.....

http://www.thefatemperor.com/latest-material/

Can scroll down for some further debunking content........

Best Regards Ivor http://www.thefatemperor.com

David Brown | 7 years ago | Reply

Excellent article. The paragraph on HDL and LDL cholesterol is especially good. However, in terms of identifying the dietary components responsible for coronary disease, this paragraph is of interest:

"Inverting the food pyramid on its head entirely, the problem then seems to be with carbohydrate consumption. This is the thesis Dr DiNicolantonio is advancing in his work. 'A public health campaign is drastically needed to educate people about the harms of a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar,' he says."

Dr. DiNicolantonio is half correct. High carbohydrate and sugar consumption is indeed problematic. But high vegetable oil consumption is also a problem as hinted in this sentence: "More importantly, it is also noted that people who followed standard advice and substituted vegetable fat for animal fat died sooner than people who stuck to the traditional saturated fats of butter and lard."

The key to understanding what constitutes proper nutrition is found in biochemical research. Excerpt from page 191 of "The Modern Nutritional Diseases: And How to Prevent Them" by Fred and Alice Ottoboni.

"BIOCHEMICAL LESSON: The significant point is that good health depends on regulating the D5D enzyme. High insulin levels due to dietary sugar and starch and high dietary omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, stimulate the D5D enzyme, and move the biochemical set point from normal toward inflammation. On the other hand, control of dietary sugar and starch, reduction of LA in the diet, and a daily supplement of fish oil to provide EPA will inhibit the D5D enzyme so that the appropriate amounts of both proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory eicosanoids are produced. Keep in mind that all of the eicosanoids, both the so-called good and bad, are important. The body is designed to use eicosanoids with opposing effects to control vital functions. In a state of optimum health, the good and the bad eicosanoids balance one another."

The high omega-6 linoleic acid content of many vegetable oils increases the need for antioxidants far beyond normal levels of intake. Antioxidants are produced by plants and function to control the action of the omega-3s and 6s in seeds and plant tissues. The high omega-6/ low antioxidant content of our modernized food supply in conjunction with refined carbohydrates and added sugars creates a perfect storm of oxidized type b LDL cholesterol particles that the body cannot deal with. Excerpt from a recent New York Times article about 99-year-old biochemist Fred Kummerow:

"In the past two years, he (Kummerow) has published four papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, two of them devoted to another major culprit he has singled out as responsible for atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries: an excess of polyunsaturated vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower — exactly the types of fats Americans have been urged to consume for the past several decades. The problem, he says, is not LDL, the 'bad cholesterol' widely considered to be the major cause of heart disease. What matters is whether the cholesterol and fat residing in those LDL particles have been oxidized. (Technically, LDL is not cholesterol, but particles containing cholesterol, along with fatty acids and protein.)" http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/health/a-lifelong-fight-against-trans-fat.html?_r=0

Added sugars and refined carbohydrates get a lot of press these days. But they are not the whole story where heart disease is concerned.

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