Fat and Cholesterol: Truth, Lies and Politics
There are a couple of big problems with the low-fat, high-carbohydrate dietary model that has been promoted in recent history. One is the lack of distinction between healthy and unhealthy fats. Another is that saturated fat has been demonized when in fact it’s an excellent source of fuel.
Through a combination of imperfect science, government policy, propaganda and the manipulative advertising of agribusiness, “conventional wisdom” has made a mistaken and simplistic correlation between dietary fats, high blood triglycerides and cholesterol. This mistake is having a devastating impact on global health.
Dietary Fat isn’t the same as Body Fat
Eating saturated fat does not cause body fat. Eating cholesterol does not cause high levels of blood cholesterol. There is no correlation. Rather, oxidation and Chronic Systemic Inflammation are caused by poor eating habits and lifestyle practices which raise blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels and create the conditions for disease.
The truth is that some dietary fats are extremely healthy while others are poison.
So why have we been sold a different story?
All Downhill from the 50’s
In the mid 1950s, the American scientist Ancel Keys used imperfect scientific studies to support his condemnation of saturated fat. He claimed that saturated animal fats led to coronary heart disease while the unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils were beneficial. His views were adopted by the US government, supported by agricultural industrialists and gave leeway to the bourgeoning processed and fast food industries. Governmental dietary recommendations dissuaded people from eating the saturated, natural fats which humans had always eaten – butter, lard, eggs and fatty meats – and encouraged the use of industrial seed and vegetable oils – substances that previously hadn’t existed. By the mid 1980’s all dietary fats were touted as leading to obesity and heart disease.
The Low Fat, High Carbohydrate Culture
Following government sanctioned dietary guidelines, most people now consume foods that are low in natural fats and high in carbohydrates. Bread, pastries and processed foods, rice and pasta, refined sugar, industrialized oils and soy derivates comprise the highest proportion of daily calories in the modern diet. At the same time, the shelves of supermarkets are full of “low fat” products.
But you only need to look at the people around you to know that something is seriously wrong. Statistics are clear: despite advanced healthcare systems the rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, food intolerances and allergies have skyrocketed and continue to rise. (see credits below)
Saturated Fat vs Excessive Carbohydrates and Lifestyle Disease
The truth is that saturated fat and other forms of natural fat have been the preferred fuel source for humans since the beginning of evolution. Saturated fat is an excellent source of energy. Our cellular membranes are largely comprised of saturated fats. Many hormonal and metabolic functions rely on them. They’re essential for our overall, long term health.
Rather, as outlined in the Carbohydrate post, an excessive consumption of carbohydrates increases the level of triglycerides in the blood, causes Chronic Systemic Inflammation and creates the conditions for high levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood, all of which pave the way for Lifestyle Disease.
Here’s how it happens:
Excessive consumption of carbohydrates > excess production of insulin + high triglycerides > fat accumulation pattern > oxidation > Chronic Systemic Inflammation (further provoked by polyunsaturated seed oils, chronic stress, chronic cardio, chronic cortisol production, sleep deprivation, sun deprivation) = an environment that is high-risk for Lifestyle Disease (weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc).
From Sugar Burner to Fat Burner
When carbohydrates, refined sugar, alcohol and industrialized seed oils are removed from the diet, and those calories are replaced with healthy fats and quality protein, the body quickly shifts gear and returns to its natural state of Fat-Burner.
Within a few weeks of following a high fat / low carb diet people lose weight, blood sugar levels stabilize, blood triglyceride levels decrease and Chronic Systemic Inflammation declines.
You just to need make sure you eat healthy fats, and avoid the poisonous ones like the plague.
Butter Photo by Megumi Nachev on Unsplash | Fatty Chop Photo by steven lim on Unsplash | Hand with tapemeasure Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash | Medical Operation Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash | Coconut Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash
For a clear graph on how overweight and obesity rates are escalating, see Obesity and the Economics of Prevention, OECD, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.