For the past 50 years we have been inundated with information from medical practitioners, nutritionists, and public health officials telling us to eat a low fat diet. In particular they have focused on the harm to our bodies from saturated fats. Only within the past 10 years has anyone talked about the benefits from so called good fats.
In an article in the Los Angeles Times, it was reported that excess carbohydrates and sugar, not fat, are responsible for the obesity and diabetes problems we have in our society. In this article, Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said that “ The countries low fat message back fired. The overemphasis on reducing fat caused the consumption of carbohydrates and sugars in our diets to soar. This shift may be linked to the biggest health problems in our society today.”At a recent conference to debunk some of the common fat myths,
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian who is an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, said “No randomized trial for looking at weight change has shown that people did better on a low fat diet. For many people, low fat diets are worse than moderate or high fat diets because they are often high in carbohydrates from rapidly digested foods such as white flour, white rice, potatoes, refined snacks and sugary drinks.”In his book “In Defense of Food”, Michael Pollan stated that “The amount of saturated fat in the diet may have little if any bearing on the risk of heart disease, and the evidence that increasing polyunsaturated fats in the diet will reduce risk is slim to none.”
For many years it has been thought that the different types of fats makes a difference in your health. The information out there concerning this issue is confusing, and often full of contraindications. It was believed that saturated fats raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Martha Rose Shulman, author of the New York Times Recipes for Health section, has said that ”doctors are saying that even saturated fats are not so bad compared with refined carbohydrates. If we were to eliminate saturated fats from our diets completely, we would also be eliminating many foods that are also rich in healthy fats, like fish, whose omega-3-fatty acids are vital to good health.” The notion of saturated fats as unhealthy is becoming murky. It is a complex issue.
Most foods have more than one type of fat in them. Half the fat in beef is composed of unsaturated fats. Most of that fat is monounsaturated fat, the type found on olive oil. In a 2002 article in the New York Times, Gary Taubes wrote “Even saturated fats-AKA the bad fats- are not nearly as deleterious as you would think. True, they will elevate your bad cholesterol, but they will also elevate your good cholesterol. In other words, it’s a virtual wash.”
The link between saturated fats and cardiovascular disease is tenuous at best. The thought process behind this is that saturated fats raise your bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels which leads to cardiovascular disease. But according to Marni Jameson in the Los Angeles Times, this is not true. “Contrary to what many expect, dietary fat intake is not directly related to blood fat. Rather, the amount of carbohydrates in the diet appears to be a more potent indicator.”
But keep in mind that there is one type of fat that is very bad for you, trans-fatty acids. Trans fats are implicated in high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and diabetes. Trans fats increase inflammation, raise the bad cholesterol, and lower the good cholesterol, and increase insulin resistance. The bottom line is to use common sense while eating. Eat whole, natural foods. The less processed the better they will be for you. The more ingredients in the food, the more processed it will be and the less beneficial for your health.