We have become a nation obsessed with “FAT” and yet we just keep getting fatter. It’s not that we are obsessed with getting it into our diet but rather getting it out of our diet. It has been pounded into our heads that a diet high in saturated fats causes an increased risk for heart disease. Since when did fat become the enemy? Well, the myth about fat actually got perpetuated many years ago and has become demonized ever since despite the lack of reseach to support such a theory.
However, a recent article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concludes that there is no evidence to support the theory that saturated fat causes an increased risk for heart disease. (1) Granted, this is a meta-analysis which compiles data from numerous studies to derive a conclusion. Meta-analysis are only as good as the data they look at. With that said there are numerous other studies that have come to the same conclusion.
I guess if we are going to talk about fat we need to briefly discuss cholesterol. Cholesterol has been portrayed as the artery clogging demon in the war on fat. If you were to ask most people, “What is cholesterol?”, I’m sure their responses would vary greatly. Most people will probably tell you that cholesterol is a fat that clogs your arteries. However, what we don’t usually hear is that the body actually manufactures cholesterol and that it essential to life. Cholesterol is crucial to the manufacturing and regulation of hormones, helps to maintain the integrity of cell walls, and helps to protect the lining of the intestinal walls. When arteries are damaged cholesterol is sent in to act like a bandage to patch up the area. Despite the benefits associated with cholesterol we are still being told to avoid foods which contain cholesterol. However, there has been no clear evidence to prove that an increase in foods containing cholesterol leads to heart disease (2)
So now that we know that fat is not the enemy lets look at some of the benefits of fat:
- Cells are composed of fats and that fat helps to protect the cell membrane.
- Fats provide a source of energy for our bodies.
- Fats stay in the stomach longer giving us a sense of fullness.
- Fats protect our internal organs.
- Fats help the body absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- There are certain essential fatty acids that our bodies need and can’t manufacture so they must come from our diet.
However, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that not all fats are created equal. For a more complete look at hydrogenated and trans-fats check out this article written by Mary G. Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon entitled, “The Oiling of America“. Additional information includes the research done by the Weston A. Price Foundation. The information on this site is well documented and well worth the read. And finally, check out the research published by Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD which helps to dispell the believe that fat is the enemy.
1. Am J Clin Nutr (January 13, 2010). doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725., Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease1,2,3,4,5., Patty W Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B Hu and Ronald M Krauss http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.27725v1
2. Dietary cholesterol, atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Kratz M., Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition, University of Washington, School of Medicine, Seattle 98195-6426, USA. email@example.com