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Is That Low Fat Diet Really Good For You?

I'm Dutch, so by Dutch law I am allowed to eat butter by the forkful...whenever I want. 

And believe me, I abide by this law frequently...and so do my kids. No low fat, skim, non-fat in this house. We are full fat, whole fat 100% of the time...for real. Lemme explain why.

For the past six decades the American public has been inundated with claims to eat a low fat diet  and cut out the cholesterol and saturated fat. Everywhere you turn the effects can be seen: low fat cheese, low fat sour cream, butter substitute and skim milk. Where did this new diet fad come from? And more importantly should we be dropping the butter, eggs, and coconut oil for our more slim low fat friends? 

What does medical research really say about a low fat diet? Should we be eating butter, coconut oil, and eggs instead?

The Healthy Home Economist explains very well in her article, The Untold Story of Butter, the media scandal that started in the 60’s and 70’s to move away from butter and consume fats like crisco, cottonseed oil, and margarine. You see, a flawed study published in the 50’s by Ancel Keys paved the way for the liquid fat companies, like Crisco, to make huge profits on banishing butter. Yet sound medical research was still inconclusive on the subject. Soon enough Americans everywhere were consuming what we now know to be health damaging trans-fats by the truck load. This New York Times article explains at bit more on the history if you are interested. 

So What Does the Research Really Say? 

  • This study published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition finds, “that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD,”. The type of saturated fat this study is speaking of is the naturally occurring fat in coconut oil, butter, milk, palm oil, etc. These whole real foods are actually good for you!
  • This study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that lowering total fat intake and increasing vegetables, fruits, and grains did not reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke
  • Also, this shows that there is no consistent evidence that higher intakes of milk and dairy products, regardless of milk fat levels, are associated with an increased risk of CVD, coronary heart disease (CHD), or stroke.
  • This study from, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, shows that even when fat levels were reduced in the blood of almost 10,000 people, “cardiovascular events, cardiovascular deaths, or total mortality” were not reduced!
  • This study published in, Nutrition Research, found that, “Higher intakes of whole fat milk, yogurt, and cheese were associated with better cardiovascular health…Higher total whole fat dairy food intake was also associated with other positive health behaviors, including being a nonsmoker, consuming the suggested dietary intakes of recommended foods, and having a normal body mass index”. You see when our bodies are given the correct types of fats they don’t crave unhealthy addictive things like processed foods, sugar, and cigarettes. 

From the evidence above we can see that the diet many people have been living by for years is actually harming their health. Saturated fat is not the cause of heart disease. Also, cholesterol is'nt bad for us either, actually it is present in great amounts throughout our body and is necessary to maintain a healthy body. It balances our hormones, processes vitamin D, reduces free radicals, and maintains a healthy gut lining (another way to avoid leaky gut). When we eat naturally occurring cholesterol (think eggs, butter, and meat) our bodies use it to function properly and thank us

So if Cholesterol and Saturated Fats Are Not the Villains, What Is? 

Trans-fats

There are naturally occurring transfats found in small amounts in cheese, butter, etc. These transfats are ok. It is the transfats that are made by adding hydrogen to oil so the oil becomes more shelf stable, any food that has “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients list contains transfat. So basically most packaged and processed food

Interesterified Oils

Oils can be turned to solids by interesterification (think Smart Balance, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and other trans-fat free butter substitutes).  Interesterification is changing the chemical structure of an oil (moving where the fatty acid is located) to once again change the melting point and increase shelf life. This science is taking the place of hydrogenation or transfats in many processed foods. However, it as well is unhealthy and has been shown to depress insulin levels (path to diabetes) and decrease metabolism of fats (think heart disease), (source).  So for those of you eating Smart Balance because it is a great healthy or vegan choice think again. Try real butter or if vegan try coconut oil and red palm oil. 

Oxidized Cholesterol 

But wait didn’t I just say cholesterol is good for us? Well, yes I did but only the naturally occurring cholesterol. However the oxidized cholesterol found in processed food is most definitely not helping us out. This type of cholesterol, which comes from cooking in vegetable oil (corn, soy, or canola), leads to plaque build up in our blood vessels and causes disease. One again, processed food is our enemy, whole R-E-A-L food is not. 

So as a recap avoid: hydrogenated fats, interesterified oils, and cooked vegetable oil. Pretty much anything fried, packaged, and processed….unfortunately. These types of fats ARE linked with an increase in heart disease, stoke, diabetes, and vascular disease. 

What to Eat Instead?

Butter (grass fed).

Whole Milk Dairy Products (preferabally raw).

Coconut Oil and Coconut Milk

Red Palm Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (not for cooking, cold only)

We could say this is science, but really isn't it common sense? Before all the massive marketing campaigns, before media and press what were we consuming? For thousands of years humans have been consuming whole real foods, foods directly from the earth and from animals. They didn't skim all the fat off the top of the milk and throw it out. Instead they prized this cream and knew it was a gold mine of nutrients! Our ancestors were healthy, strong, and lacked many diseases that we currently have (think heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases). The processed, packaged, and era of quick meals is ruining us. So give your body a gift this New Year and eat real fats!


Disclaimer: The information found on cleansthenewblack.com is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness/disease. Nor is to intended to supplement the advice of a licensed physician or the like. You should not rely upon the information in this blog to make medical decisions prior to consult with your medical doctor.


References

  1. Sundram K., Karupaiah T., Hayes K.C. Stearic acid-rich interesterified fat and trans-rich fat raise the LDL/HDL ratio and plasma glucose relative to palm olein in humans. Nutr. Metab. 2007;4 doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-4-3. [PMC free article
  2. Crichton GE, Alkerwi A. Dairy food intake is positively associated with cardiovascular health: findings from Observation of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Luxembourg study. Nutr Res. 2014 Dec;34(12):1036-44. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2014.04.002. Epub 2014 Apr 12. PubMed PMID: 25476191.
  3. Siri-Tarino P.W., Sun Q., Hu F.B., Krauss R.M. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2010;91:535–546. [PMC free article]
  4. Howard BV, Van Horn L, Hsia J, et al. Low-Fat Dietary Pattern and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: The Women's Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial. JAMA. 2006;295(6):655-666. doi:10.1001/jama.295.6.655.
  5. Huth PJ, Park KM. Influence of dairy product and milk fat consumption on cardiovascular disease risk: a review of the evidence. Adv Nutr. 2012;3:266–85. [PMC free article
  6. I D Frantz, Jr, E A Dawson, P L Ashman, L C Gatewood, G E Bartsch, K Kuba, and E R Brewer. Test of effect of lipid lowering by diet on cardiovascular risk. The Minnesota Coronary Survey. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1989;9:129-35.
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