The word fat conjures up all kinds of thoughts and emotional reactions, some even visceral. For some, their mind instantly thinks about body fat. Since the rate of overweight and even obese Americans has risen steadily over the past 50 years, for many this word has become the reminder of a constant personal battle of the bulge. Whether they win or lose the entire war, may mean the difference between living their later years in pain, sickness and disability versus living an active and fully functioning healthy “golden years.” Obesity has been linked to virtually every chronic debilitating disease of aging. One of the reasons is that fat cells trigger release of pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. And inflammation is the driver of chronic diseases of aging. Excess body fat is the fat people should fear.
While some body fat is healthy and necessary, the majority of people have way too much. Fifty years ago, thirteen percent of adults in the United States had a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the obese range. Today, that figure is thirty-five percent. An additional thirty-four percent are overweight, leaving fewer than one in three adults in the normal weight range. Therein lies the problem. It is an epidemic. And, because the public psyche has been so shell-shocked about the devastating effects of high body fat and have spent so much time and effort fighting that battle, it makes it easy for them to fall prey to lies, deception and every passing fad. Let’s get right into the lies and deception right now!
Historically, the sugar industry has sold the big lie that sugar is healthier than dietary fat. In a few paragraphs, you will see the evidence for that in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Because of this misinformation campaign by the sugar industry, people became fearful of eating foods with any type of fat in it. Hence, from a dietary standpoint, the word fat has become demonized to the point where health-conscious individuals have done everything in their power to avoid consuming it.
So where does this disdain and fear of fat come from? Let me give you a short synopsis. After World War II, due to an increase in mortality rates from heart disease, doctors began advising people to limit their fat intake. This is mainly because, when doctors looked at blockages in arteries of people that had heart attacks, they saw a waxy-fatty looking substance responsible for the obstruction. They surmised that dietary fat must be the culprit. Cholesterol and saturated fat became public enemy number one and number two.
The chain reaction from sugar
What we have since discovered, is that sugar triggers inflammation by various mechanisms, one of which is called protein glycation. Looking at it simplistically, glycation is a crusting that causes damage to our proteins rendering them unable to perform the vital functions they are designed to perform. Another mechanism is that excess sugar triggers excess insulin. Insulin stimulates the conversion of omega-6 oils into inflammatory prostaglandins such as PGE-2 (prostaglandin E-2). This contributes to systemic inflammation. And, inflammation of the internal artery walls contributes to the body’s self-defense mechanism of depositing cholesterol to mitigate the inflammatory reaction. It’s the body’s attempt to control the damage from the inflammation. No inflammation – no waxy-fatty deposits. In fact, an analysis of the types of fat found in artery walls show that it is only about 26% saturated. The rest is unsaturated with more than half of that being polyunsaturated fat. I will discuss the distinctions between the types of fats later in this article.
The Eisenhower Paradox
In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered a heart attack. His cholesterol was measured at 165 mg/dl, well within range of what cardiologists of today consider healthy. Regardless, his doctors put him on a low-cholesterol diet which he followed faithfully. His meals were cooked in soybean oil or polyunsaturated margarine (more about that later). His cholesterol levels were measured 10 times per year. When he left office on January 19, 1961 just over five years later, his cholesterol was 259 mg/dl (which is considered high). Dr. Gary Taubes documents this story in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories in a section he calls The Eisenhower Paradox. Dr. Taubes shows the dilemma posed by this all too common scenario.
In addition, the body will produce cholesterol in an attempt to manage inflammation. In President Eisenhower’s case, the diet high in inflammatory vegetable oils and simple carbohydrates caused systemic inflammation, forcing his liver to make more cholesterol in an effort to combat the heightened inflammation. Remember, he had low cholesterol before he was put on a low cholesterol diet. Then his cholesterol went up. The Eisenhower Paradox is really the cholesterol paradox. As a double whammy, he was also a heavy smoker.
Additionally, a researcher named Ansel Keys in the late 1950’s coined the phrase the “Lipid Hypothesis”, based on his Seven Countries Study and stated that the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet had a direct correlation to the incidence of coronary artery disease. Later, it was discovered that Keys inappropriately omitted key countries (Holland, Norway and Chile), where the data did not fit his hypothesis. This strengthened his theory which would have been negatively impacted had he left the omitted data in. He also vehemently opposed competing theories suggesting that sugar was a causative factor, to support his own work. The government and regulatory agencies chose to adopt his theory and demonized fat. The sugar industry also played a MAJOR role in manufacturing the false narrative. More about that in a minute.
Cholesterol is essential
The liver produces far more cholesterol than the amount one could get from their diet. Cholesterol is essential to our survival because many compounds including our many of our hormones are synthesized from it. It also is one of the components that make up our cells, our brain and our nervous system. It is incorporated in the production of bile to help digest fats and in the production of vitamin D. We couldn’t survive without it. In fact, much research the last few years suggests that levels that are too low, result in a higher all-cause mortality (death). The push to lower cholesterol levels by continuing to drop the “normal” range has been great for the pharmaceutical industry, but not for the consumer. Cholesterol lowering statin drugs have been linked with numerous serious side effects including cancer, nerve pain and muscle pain, diabetes, memory loss and erectile dysfunction. Yet, they don’t appear to significantly improve cardiovascular outcomes according to recent research.
The sugar industry spins the narrative
Never letting a good tragedy go to waste, the sugar industry jumped on the opportunity to help spread the message demonizing dietary fat. Many products contained fat, because fat adds taste and fat gives the appetite centers of the brain satisfaction or what is often referred to as satiety. When this portion of the brain is stimulated, it signals the person to stop eating because they are feeling full and satisfied. The sugar industry’s plan, was to convince food manufacturers to remove fat from their products. The problem was when you remove the fat you also remove a lot of the flavor and calories. So, what would replace fat? Sugar of course! Brilliant marketing strategy! Sugar will add calories and stimulate centers of the brain that give a temporary sense of elevated mood and well-being. On the surface, this seemed to make sense. What we didn’t know at the time, was that this would be a change that would cost millions of people their health and ultimately their lives. The sense of enhanced mood and well-being is short lived when consuming simple carbohydrates and then it comes crashing down as blood sugar levels drop. Like that temporary high, the hopes of changing the trajectory of cardiovascular disease and stroke had also been dashed. On top of that, what we are learning about the powerful addictive qualities of sugar are shedding light on the reason that it is such a difficult habit to break. Sugar impacts the same areas of the brain as the powerfully addictive opiate drugs that are devastating so many lives in our country today.
So how did the sugar industry convince everybody to get on board with this plan?
In a seminal article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Internal Medicine on September 12, 2016, titled Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research – A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents, the authors lay out the case against the sugar industry. This article, reads like a suspense novel filled with corruption, greed, dishonesty and blatant lack of concern for the public well-being. The researchers behind this article uncovered internal documents from the sugar industry in the 1960s.
Those internal documents revealed the following:
The goal of the sugar industry was to increase sugar’s market share by getting Americans to eat a lower fat diet. They devised a plan which consisted of the following objectives:
- To get leading nutritionists to point out the supposed connection between American’s high fat diet and the formation of cholesterol, resulting in clogging arteries, causing high blood pressure and heart attacks.
- The Sugar Research Foundation sponsored its first heart disease research project in 1965, which was a literature review published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This review singled out fat and cholesterol as the dietary causes of heart disease and downplayed evidence that sugar consumption was also a risk factor.
- The sugar industry would subsequently spend $600,000 ($5.3 million in 2016 dollars), “to teach people who had never had a course in biochemistry that sugar is what keeps every human being alive and with energy to face our daily problems.”
- In the face of research showing the damaging effects of sugar, the sugar industry leaders and scientists plotted to manipulate the literature. They hired and financially bribed noted scientists to mislead the public and to influence government guidelines. They listed the scientists who were bribed.
- The sugar industry bought and paid for three studies which concluded that it was exclusively cholesterol and saturated fat which were responsible for heart disease. They also concluded that increasing dietary polyunsaturated fats like corn and soy oil would reduce the risk of heart disease. This makes their actions doubly dubious. We now know today that these omega six oils are major contributing factors to heart disease and stroke. One can only wonder how many millions of people have suffered needlessly as a result of this blatant attempt to manipulate science and influence policymakers. One more thing. These three studies also determined that consumption of sugar and starches were not important factors in heart disease. What a surprise!
- The Sugar Research Foundation published a literature review in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967 without disclosure of the sugar industry’s funding or role. This review served the sugar industry’s interests by distorting the facts about dietary fat and sugar. Fred stair, who was the chair of Harvard’s nutrition department at the time and senior author of this review, began soliciting donations from food companies in the early 1940s.
- Over the next several years the sugar industry continued to fund research that propped up their lies and profits.
Based on actions such as these, as well as slick marketing campaigns by the food industry over the following 25 years, the US government reinforced this faulty belief system. In 1992, the U.S. Government published the Food Pyramid. At the very base or bottom, were cereals, grains bread, rice and pasta. These foods were to provide 6-11 servings per day. On the other end of the pyramid at the very top were the oils and fats. We now know that this is very unhealthy and contributes to many of the diseases that are endemic in western society today.
Excess sugar is a curse
According to Mark Hyman MD, author of Eat Fat, Get Thin, “the average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour per year. Almost 20% of our daily calories come from sugar sweetened beverages like soda, sports drinks, sweetened coffee and teas and juice. These liquid sugar calories are far worse than solid sugar or other carb calories because they go straight into fat production and storage due to the strong release of insulin they cause. They are biologically addictive, increasing your craving for more sugar.” He goes on to cite an article from the Journal Circulation in which researchers attributed 184,000 deaths each year to the effects of drinking these sugary beverages. These drinks have been proven to cause obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes and cancer. The simpler the carbohydrate, the stronger the insulin response. Insulin is the fat storage hormone. Highly processed carbohydrates overstimulate fat cells, driving them into a feeding frenzy. Insulin opens the gates and fat cells engorge themselves, consuming more than their pro rata share of calories.
The Fat Switch
According to Richard J. Johnson M.D., there is a “fat Switch”, that triggers calories to be stored as fat. Dr. Johnson has published more than 500 papers and has authored books including one called The Fat Switch- Learn what causes obesity and simple methods to fight it. Dr. Johnson and many other scientists believe that fructose (fruit sugar), is many times stronger even than sugar as it relates to triggering the fat switch. The levels of fructose including high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), have increased exponentially in many of the processed foods and sugary drinks we consume. Is it any wonder the rates of obesity been climbing over the past few decades and are now going through the roof?
Simple carbs and especially fructose trigger fat storage
In David Lustig MD’s book, Always Hungry? Conquer Cravings, Retrain your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight, he makes a great case for the argument that all calories are not processed and utilized by the body equally. He says that what we eat is vastly more important of how much we eat. “After every meal, hormones, chemical reactions, and even the activity of genes throughout the body change in radically different ways, all according to what we eat. These biological effects of food, quite apart from calorie content, could make all the difference between feeling persistently hungry or satisfied, between having low or robust energy, between weight gain or loss, and between a lifetime of chronic disease or one of good health.” Instead of calorie counting, I began to think of diet in an entirely different way—according to how food affects our bodies and, ultimately, our fat cells.”
The following quote explaining the differences between simple sugar and fructose says it all. ”In fact, calorie for calorie, 100 percent orange juice is worse for you than soda, because the orange juice contains 18 grams of fructose per ounce, while the soda contains 1.7 grams of fructose per once.” Sucrose (table sugar), is half glucose (which doesn’t taste sweet) and half fructose (tastes very sweet). Glucose triggers the release of insulin which promotes fat storage. Fructose doesn’t trigger insulin like sucrose, but it opens the fat switch, which promotes fat storage around the body wall and visceral fat. Visceral fat, also called brown fat is the internal fat the wraps around our organs. This is opposed to white fat that is external and jiggles when we walk. Visceral fat triggers the release of inflammatory chemicals including Interleukin-6, which can lead to deadly diseases. It’s a double whammy. In addition to increases in unsightly body fat and visceral (brown) fat around the organs, the liver also becomes a victim. Fatty liver is at the root of metabolic diseases like obesity, adult-onset diabetes, dyslipidemia (abnormal blood lipids…cholesterol, HDL, LDL’s, triglycerides), cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
Fructose sabotages the appetite center of the brain
In addition, fructose causes leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells. Leptin turns off the hunger and craving signal in the brain. When cells become resistant to leptin, the result is continued hunger and overeating. When eating fruit in its whole form, the effect of fructose is less dramatic due to the fiber. The fibers lock the fructose in, so that it is time released as the fiber is digested. So, don’t worry as about eating some fruit (I’m a big fan of berries), but keep it minimal compared to your vegetable intake. Much more importantly, stay away from fruit juice.
Enter dietary fat and the ratio that matters
The reality is, that over the past few years a scientific consensus is being developed about the beneficial role of dietary fat. Dietary fat does not trigger insulin, in fact it reduces the insulin response. Therefore, a significant reduction of inflammation occurs. One caveat to that statement. The emphasis in your dietary fat intake needs to come from fats higher in omega-3 oils versus omega-6 oils. This ratio makes a huge difference in not only the state of your body’s inflammation, but also the function of your immune and nervous systems. Because of all of the omega-6 oils in processed foods and commercial cooking, the standard American diet (S.A.D.), has a typical ratio can to be as high as 20:1, omega-6 to omega-3’s. Most health experts studying this believe that the ideal ratio is between 3:1 and 1:1. A brief summary of this issue and the risk factors it presents can be found on my site at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw-G8nwpwDfHN3MyYXN2eUdFZ2s/view?usp=sharing . This brief article gives a nice summary of this concept. Dietary fat also acts as a carrier to assist in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, along with numerous other beneficial processes.
Without going through an exhaustive explanation of the differences between all of the different types of dietary fat, I would just like to make some basic, but important comments on each.
A brief chemistry lesson
Fats are made up of three elements, Carbon (C), Hydrogen (H) and Oxygen (O). The word saturated is the degree to which the carbon molecules are fully bonded by hydrogen molecules.
Saturated fats have three hydrogen atoms on each carbon. The more saturated fat is, the more stable it is, meaning the more tolerant of heat, light and air.
Mono-unsaturated (mono = one), means that there is one double bond between two of the carbons and each of those carbons have only one hydrogen attached. These are the next most stable fats.
Poly-unsaturated (poly = many), means that there are more than one carbons that do not have hydrogen molecules attached and more than one double bonds between carbon molecules. This is what makes polyunsaturated fats unstable and susceptible to oxidative damage.
Saturated fat can be either plant or animal based. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature.
Saturated fats come in four categories:
- Short chain- 5 or less carbon molecules
- Medium chain- 6 to 12 carbons
- Long chain- 13 to 21 carbons
- Very long chain- 22 or more
Studies are showing that even longer chain saturated fats like those derived from animal fat are proving to be beneficial in appropriate quantities. One of the things that saturated fats do, is make up a portion of our cell membranes including the membranes of our mitochondria which are the power houses creating energy for our cells. If the diet has too many polyunsaturated fatty acids, our cell membranes can be susceptible to oxidative damage. Saturated fats are much more stable and less likely to suffer the same fate. The healthier our mitochondria, the better our cells function and reproduce. The better our cells do, the better our tissues do. The better our tissues do, the better our systems do. The better our systems do, the better our entire body does. Other foods that contain saturated fats are whole milk, butter, ghee, lard and animal meat. One principle that should always be considered when making food choices, is to eat a variety of foods and in this case a variety of fats. Such is the case with long chain saturated fats. Some is beneficial, but too much could become problematic.
One misconception about fat from animals is that it is all saturated. Chicken fat is about 31% saturated, 49% monounsaturated (including moderate amounts of the beneficial omega-7 oil Palmitoleic acid) and 20% polyunsaturated fat, most of which is omega six linoleic acid, (a pro-inflammatory fatty acid). Chickens fed a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids will also contain a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids compared to omega-6’s. In comparison, beef fat is typically about 50 to 55% saturated, 40% monounsaturated and approximately 3% polyunsaturated fat. Once again, the amount of omega-3 fatty acids vs. omega 6 in beef is determined by the diet of the animal. Beef fed large amounts of corn and soy will have very high levels of inflammatory omega-6 oils. Beef fed large amounts of grass and natural forage will have high levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils.
Monounsaturated fat is the next most stable fat. Many health benefits have been attributed to diets high in monounsaturated fats including lowering small particle Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs), the unhealthy ones (AKA Patten B particles). The Mediterranean diet is one of those, as it contains high levels of olive oil which is primarily monounsaturated fat. For this reason, the Mediterranean diet has been held up as one of the more culturally healthy diets that have been studied. Other oils high in monounsaturated fats include; olives and olive oil, avacados and olive oil, eggs, red meat, and most nuts including Macadamia nuts and oil. Monounsaturated oils can be kept in a dark cupboard. Refrigeration is not necessary. Oleic acid is an omega-9 fatty acid and is the most abundant mono-unsaturated fat in the diet.
Polyunsaturated fat is the least stable fat. These fats are highly susceptible to oxidative damage by light, heat and air. If they become damaged, the resultant free-radicals wreak havoc, attacking cell membranes and cause DNA damage leading to mutations and early cells death. I recommend storing polyunsaturated oils in the refrigerator, away from light, air and heat.
There are two main categories of polyunsaturated oils, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These are both considered “Essential Fatty Acids”, because the body cannot make them and they must be obtained from the diet:
Linoleic acid is the dominant omega 6 fatty acid in the diet. These are considered the pro-inflammatory oils. Examples of omega-6 polyunsaturated oils are; safflower, grapeseed, sunflower, corn, wheat germ, soybean, shortening and margarine in order of greatest to least omega six content. Also on the naughty list are nearly all processed foods; most salad dressings, snack foods, chips, popcorn, cookies, baked goods, muffins, pastries, fast food fries and onion rings, milk, butter, eggs, pork products and even beef, lamb, chicken and turkey UNLESS those animals are pasture raised, grass fed livestock. The reason pasture raised, free-range grass-fed animals are so much healthier than commercially raised animals, is that commercial farms feed them high levels of corn and soy. Eggs from commercially raised chickens are estimated to have omega-6 levels nineteen times higher than omega-3’s. What the animal eats, becomes the animal’s meats.
In fact, I would submit that the reason some research (most often touted by those against consumption of animal meat), shows meat eaters developing a higher incidence on cardiovascular disease or cancer than those eating a vegetable based diet, is the fact that the vast majority of meat consumed is commercially raised on corn, soy and grain. Meats consumed that are high in these inflammatory oils are bound to increase risk. Another reason to campaign for and support family farms and ranchers that treat their poultry and livestock humanely, allowing them plenty of free-range, fresh air, sunshine and access to grass, leaves and forage, instead of feeding them corn, soy and grain.
One of the omega-6 oils called arachidonic acid (AA), is found in animal meat. It can also be produced from Omega-6 vegetable oils in the presence of insulin. Arachidonic acid is further converted in the body into a prostaglandin (PGE-2). PGE-2 is very PRO-inflammatory. Levels of AA are significantly higher in livestock fed with corn, soy and grain. The ironic thing is that AA makes up about 11% of our brain and is also converted into the endocannabinoids, AKA eicosanoids that act as neuromodulators for a tremendous number of brain functions. AA and DHA are the two primary fatty acids responsible for cognitive functioning. EPA from fish can block the conversion of AA into PGE-2, therefore preserving AA to be used for the benefit of our brain and cognition.
GLA- A healthy omega-6 oil
There are some other omega-6 oils that also have positive health benefits. A couple of examples would be evening Primrose oil and borage oil. These oils while being omega six oils, are high in gamma linoleic acid (GLA), which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Omega-3 oils are also polyunsaturated. Omega-3 oils are also called “essential” fatty acids, because the body cannot make them. They must be ingested from outside sources. These are considered the anti-inflammatory oils. You should make a concerted effort to increase the amount of these oils in your diet. There is a plethora (love that word), of scientific research supporting the benefits of omega-3 oils for reducing inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Other benefits include improving brain and immune system and hormonal function.
Fish oil is the most popular animal source of omega 3 fatty acids. Fish oil consists of EPA and DHA.
Linolenic acid is the dominant plant derived omega-3 fatty acid in the diet. Examples of these oils flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, walnuts and walnut oil, macadamia nuts and oil. Green leafy vegetables also contain a decent amount of omega-3 oils.
Less familiar omega fatty acids
There are two other fats that are found in the diet, although less prevalent.
Omega-7 fatty acids
Palmitoleic (C16:1)- Omega-7 fatty acids are not essential, meaning the body can make them. They have very similar health benefits as omega-3’s and in particular fish oil. They are found in cold water fish, macadamia nuts and sea buckthorn. Plant based sources also contain palmitic acid, which can negate much of the benefits of palmitolic acid. When buying omega-7 supplements, look for ones that have reduced the palmitic acid content to less than 5%.
Omega-9 fatty Acids
- Oleic acid: a monounsaturated fat found in olive, macadamia, almond and avocado oils, poultry fat, and lard. It is thought to be one of the factors that give olive oil many of its health promoting benefits, as often touted in the Mediterranean Diet
- Mead acid: a polyunsaturated fat with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Erucic acid: a monounsaturated fat that has raised some concern based on animal studies that this may be dangerous to humans. Studies have shown that it can cause fatty deposits in the heart walls, although the effect seems to be transient. Rapeseed oil, mustard oil and wallflower oil are common sources. While canola oil is derived from Rapeseed, a low Erucic acid Rapeseed plant called L.E.A.R. has been developed for production of canola. As a result of its high Erucic acid levels, the European Union has banned the use of Mustard Oil for cooking. It is found in high levels in Brassica vegetable seeds like kale, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, although the levels are extremely low in the vegetables themselves and not deemed a health concern.
- Nervonic acid: a monounsaturated fat important for healthy brain function. It’s found in salmon, nuts (especially macadamias), and seeds.
Turn the Tables (dinner table that is)
In the same way, the omega-6 oils consumed by livestock and farm animals are incorporated into the meat and byproducts produced by those animals, what we eat as humans becomes the building blocks for our tissues and cells. The old adage is really true, you are what you eat. Maximizing omega-3 foods and oils and minimizing the omega-6s will not only reduce inflammation and consequently the other diseases that are enhanced by inflammation, it also helps improve nearly every physiological function within the body. A list of hundreds of foods rated based on their omega-3 content and omega 6:3 ratio can be found on my website. I have two documents available that lists hundreds of foods by their Omega-6 to Omega-3 content. The lists were compiled by Dr. Bill Lands. Dr. Lands is a nutritional biochemist that is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on essential fatty acids. They are a comprehensive list of foods, one rated by highest to lowest Omega-3 content and one by highest to lowest Omega-6 content. Visit my Educational Portal at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw-G8nwpwDfHa282czJETl9wdGs/view?usp=sharing for a list of Omega 3 foods. And see https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nzYKzogA3L9DB4WzjJlTJMAUBTflHjyG/view?usp=sharing for a list of Omega 6 foods. These two documents will help you differentiate between the healthy anti-inflammatory 3’s and the inflammatory 6’s in your daily food choices. Simply reducing the amount of omega-6 oils in your diet and increasing the omega-3’s, will make a dramatic difference in your current and future health potential!
If you want to have your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio tested, you can order your test kit by emailing your contact information and request to firstname.lastname@example.org . The normal cost is $199. For a limited time, the cost is $149. It is a self-administered test whereby you use a finger stick and place 4 drops of blood on a card. You then mail the card to the lab for analysis. The lab analyzes the red blood cell membranes for the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, therefore giving you an accurate reading of the actual profile of these lipids within your cells. This gives you a snapshot of your average consumption over the last 120 days. That is important because simply looking at the levels of these lipids floating around in the bloodstream, would only indicate the amounts that you have consumed within the last several hours. In addition to the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, it tells you your EPA and DHA levels, as well as your arachidonic acid (AA) levels. Your results are compared to the standard American averages, which quite frankly are not very good. That is one of the main reasons that we have such an epidemic of inflammatory diseases in our population.
There are no redeeming benefits or health qualities from these fats! Trans fats are not found in nature. They are in adulteration of fat by scientists attempting to create products that have longer shelf lives. I hesitate to even call these products foods, because most of them have very limited nutritional value. These are in processed products and stored in a box. The mechanism for creating trans fats is called hydrogenation. This is another keyword to look for when reading labels. Hydrogenated oils are simply another word for trans fats. Fortunately, public outcry has forced the removal of trans fats from most products and since January 2006 requires manufacturers to list them on the label.
Remember all fats can be damaged by heat, light and air, some more than others as previously described. Rancidity of fats are common in commercial cooking, especially fast food restaurants where oils will be heated for long periods and even repetitively to very high temperatures. French fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets and any other deep-fried foods are very damaging to our cells, as free radicals are produced and the fats cause major oxidative stress to the person eating those products. The same thing happens when potato and corn based chips are made.
Canola oil is often promoted as healthy because it contains only about 5% saturated fat. Canola oil was developed from the rapeseed, a member of the mustard family. Rapeseed is unsuited for human consumption because it contains a very long chain fatty acid called erucic acid, which has been associated with fibrotic heart lesions. Canola oil is a processed oil and is chemically altered from its original form. While canola oil is often positively touted as containing approximately 57% of the omega-9 oleic acid. Unfortunately, canola also has a high sulfur content and goes rancid very easily.
Other processed oils
Processed oils are extracted by high heat and pressure and the use of solvents. Dangerous preservatives, such as BHA and BHT are then often added to the oil to extend the shelf life. Avoid processed oils whenever possible. The word “refined” is also used to indicate that the oil has been chemically changed to tolerate higher temperatures. Cold-pressed or virgin oils are the way to go.
Coconut oil has recently been the center of misinformation in the media. Good Morning America featured a segment by their medical correspondent warning people about coconut oil being a saturated fat and that they should use it with caution. With the solid science supporting the attributes of coconut oil, it is a shame that bad information is presented as fact to the public, causing unnecessary worry and confusion. It makes me wonder, who stands to benefit from the false narrative?
Reports cautioning people to minimize their consumption of coconut oil due to the fact it contains saturated fat is unfounded (more on that later). It is true that coconut oil is about 93% saturated fat. The majority of the type of saturated fat in coconut oil is medium chain triglycerides or M.C.T.s, not long chain triglycerides, or very long chain triglycerides. The length of the triglyceride chain determines how the body handles it. M.C.T.s are uniquely converted readily in the liver to ketones, which can provide a highly usable form of fuel for energy requirements of our cells. Two awesome things about this are, that it reduces the need for sugar to produce cellular energy and ketones are not stored as body fat like glucose is, because it does not trigger an insulin response like glucose, or open the “fat switch” like fructose.
Coconut oil has become all the rage recently. In my opinion, there are numerous benefits for consuming coconut oil. Because it is efficient in providing a source of energy for brain cells, it can help those people that have developed insulin resistance or even diabetes. Much research is being done in the benefits of coconut oil for this reason with dementia and neurodegenerative disorders including seizure disorders, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. In Dr. Mary Newport’s book, Alzheimer’s Disease – What if there was a cure? Dr. Newport provides compelling evidence to the benefits of coconut oil with neurological conditions. In her next book, The Coconut Oil and A low Carb Solution, for Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s and other diseases, she provides very practical ways to incorporate a strategy for using coconut and coconut oil with these disorders.
In addition to neurological benefit, coconut oil has also shown to fight infections and boost the immune system, reduce body fat, curb the appetite, lowers the risk of heart disease and prevent diabetes. It is very a very stable oil and can be kept at room temperature for long periods of time without becoming rancid. It’s melting point is 76 degrees.
The fat in coconut oil is made up primarily of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). The MCTs in coconut oil are primarily comprised of four different fractions based on the number of carbon molecules in the chain.
- 8 carbons (C8), caprylic acid (6%)
- 10 carbons (C10), capric acid (8%)
- 12 carbons (C12), lauric acid (48%), recognized to have anti-microbial/fungal properties.
- 14 carbons (C14), myristic acid (20%)
MCTs are metabolized very different than long and very long chain fatty acids, which are the saturated fats that have been vilified for so long. These fats, are handled very differently by the body than MCTs. Long chain saturated fats first have to be emulsified by bile from the gallbladder and then digested by pancreatic enzymes. Only then can they be absorbed through the gut wall. Once absorbed, they link up with proteins into lipoproteins (HDLs and LDLs) that are transported throughout the bloodstream. MCTs don’t require bile or pancreatic enzymes to be broken down and absorbed directly through the intestine into the bloodstream, where they go to the liver and are converted into ketones. As mentioned, ketones can then be burned by cells as fuel. This is superior to burning glucose, as burning glucose produces potentially dangerous free-radicals. Burning ketones does not. Persons with Alzheimer’s and Type 2 Diabetes suffer from insulin resistance which makes it difficult for glucose to be utilized. Ketones provide an efficient and much more accessible source of fuel. The most efficient fractions for conversion into ketones are the shorter chain caproic and caprylic fatty acids, and to a lesser extent capric acid.
This is a product that has been around forever, but is just now becoming tremendously popular. It as a form of clarified butter that removes the milk solids containing the casein and lactose. Casein in the protein that is responsible for most dairy allergies. Lactose is the milk sugar that is responsible for lactose intolerance. It has a very rich butterier than butter flavor. I recommend buying a brand that uses cows that are pasture raised and grass fed. Rather than get into more details here, please check out my recent post on ghee at https://www.wellnessdoc.com/2017/09/introducing-delicious-new-healthy-food-isnt-new/
Don’t get the largest container of oil just to save a buck, especially with the polyunsaturated oils. Remember two of the three arch enemies of oils are oxygen (O2) and light. Once you open the container, it allows O2 in. Every time you open it, it allows O2 in. Then one of your kids doesn’t screw the top on tight. More O2 leaks in. The lower the level of oil in the bottle, the more O2 it is exposed to even if the cap is on tight. Then someone leaves the bottle out on the counter in bright light all day, instead of putting it away in the cupboard or refrigerator. That is one of the reasons why good manufacturers with use dark glass or opaque bottles with polyunsaturated oils like flax oil.
One thing to consider in consuming more fats, is that you will want to reduce portion sizes of some of your other foods appropriately if you want to keep your caloric intake constant. One tablespoon of most oils provides between 120 and 135 calories. When you increase the amount of fat in your diet, you want to be sure that the rest of your calories are coming from high nutrient density foods. If you eat between six to eight servings of vegetables per day, consisting of a variety, including leafy greens and cruciferous veggies, limited fruit, meat, seafood and some nuts, you should be in decent shape.
A Bonus Benefit
Another tremendous benefit of controlling your insulin levels by restricting your carbohydrates and eating more dietary fat is it can significantly lower you risk of cancer and may even help you beat cancer if you have it. Cancer cells thrive on sugar. If you can avoid sugar and high glycemic foods, and substitute healthy fats into your diet, it can help deny cancer cells the much-coveted fuel they require.
An ever-increasing number of studies support the health benefits
In a new study titled, Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents and published August 29, 2017 in the renowned British medical journal Lancet, researchers from multiple highly-regarded institutions around the world studied an incredibly large number of individuals ages 35 to 70 years (135,335 people), from 18 countries, over an average of 7.4 years.
- Those that consumed the most dietary fat had a reduced risk of death of 23%
- Higher consumption of saturated fat resulted in greater than a 20% lower risk of stroke
- Those with the highest carbohydrate diet had an increased risk of death of 28%!
The authors concluded:
“High carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat are related with lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat are not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality, Whereas, saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke. Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings.”
The latest health and weight loss “crazes”
Recently, the Ketogenic and Paleo Diets have become all the rage. They can both reduce systemic inflammation, promote better energy levels, reduce cravings, improve insulin sensitivity, metabolic syndrome, brain health, mood and neurological function. And, both can decrease body fat and visceral fat reserves, improving body composition. Each one deserves its own article and much more time than I can devote to them here. But I will provide some basic concepts on each.
The “Keto” Diet as its often called, consists of a diet high in fat (70-80%), moderate protein (20-25%) and vegetables (5-10%). Simple and starchy carbs are eliminated. This approach trains your body to burn bodyfat in the form of ketones for fuel, rather than glycogen.
Sources of fats include:
- Egg yolks (preferably organic and pasture-raised on omega-3 feed)
- Healthy oils like coconut oil, flax oil, walnut oil, olive oil, MCT oil, macadamia nut oil and avocado oil
- Nuts and seeds (in moderation)
- Cold water fish like salmon, halibut, cod, sardines
- Butter or ghee (from grass fed cows if possible, and free from antibiotics and bovine growth hormone bGH)
- Coconut butter
- Cocoa butter
- Cheeses (grass fed, hormone free)
- Full fat yogurt
- “Fatty” cuts of meat (preferably grass fed to maintain a health omega-6 to omega-3 ratio which will reduce systemic inflammation and disease). This is one area not emphasized enough in some keto diets. Eating fatty meats derived from commercially raised corn, soy and grain fed livestock will be extremely detrimental to your health. Who cares if they lose weight, if they lose their health in the process?
Bacon is often touted as a staple for the Keto Diet. A couple problems I have with that is that once again, pigs are often fed diets of corn, soy and grains which make their fat pro-inflammatory. Secondly, bacon has by far the highest levels of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs), when cooked. AGEs relate to the protein glycation topic I mentioned earlier. This creates free-radical damage to healthy cells and tissues. Using a measurement of carboxymethyllysine content, different foods and different cooking methods are compared. Whereas most meats when cooked produce AGE levels of 5,000-10,000, fried bacon tops out at 91,577! The list of 549 foods can be found at my web site at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw-G8nwpwDfHOTl1cTlmTEpTZVU/view?usp=sharing
For someone attempting to maintain a state of ketosis it is MANDATORY that you monitor your ketone levels to stay in the safe range. The best way is with a blood glucose/ketone meter like the Precision Xtra made by Abbott. Some people will use the ketone urine test strips, which more cost effective and convenient, but thought to be not as accurate.
I highly recommend that you only attempt a ketogenic diet under the supervision of an experienced health professional.
The Paleo Diet is slightly different, in that the macronutrient ratios look something like this:
Fat ~ 65%
The food recommendations are very similar to the Keto diet, except more vegetables and limited fruits are allowed and slightly less fat and protein is consumed.
Personally, I believe that it is healthiest to vary the diet periodically, so that the body does not develop an adaptive set-point and compensate to accommodate for a static consumption of food types. Fasting has its time and place. Certainly, our ancestors had periods of feast and famine. Therefore, even intermittent fasting has shown to promote health and longevity. Having a splurge day or meal now and then can also have many benefits.
The Bottom Line
I recommend making your best effort to make the following changes to you diet:
- Increase the omega-3, 7 and 9 fats in your diet- Cold water WILD fish, nuts especially walnuts and macadamias, flax, chia and hemp seeds, avocados, leafy greens, etc. See the comprehensive list mentioned earlier in this article.
- Decrease the omega-6 fats in your diet (except for GLA containing supplements like Borage and Evening Primrose Oils. See the comprehensive list mentioned earlier in this article.
- Eat small to medium portions of meat (preferably grass or free-range forage fed), even though it contains saturated fat, as we have established that some is healthy for you.
- Keep insulin and therefore inflammation and protein glycation under control by avoiding processed foods and beverages containing added sugar. This holds true also for high glycemic foods also.
- Reduce fructose to reduce fat storage (including visceral fat) and protein glycation
- Take 1 to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
- Take 1-3 tablespoons of monounsaturated omega-3 & 9 oils (olive, hemp, macadamia, walnut or avocado oil) per day.
If you embrace and make wise choices about the type and amounts of fats you consume, there is NO need to Fear the fat!
*References available on request
Feel free to contact me through Wellnessdoc.com if you would like personal nutrition, health or lifestyle coaching.