Disclaimer: In an effort to keep my blog posts short, readable, and not bombard you with a ton of information, this post is going to be the first part of a series on fat. This topic in particular is quite complex and I want to give it its fair share of thought and exploration – especially considering the controversial nature of this issue.
I chose to take this on and write about the fat debate because I believe that everyone should be able to form their own educated and informed decision about this issue. This is fundamentals, and I think it is important that we all have a basic understanding of the different kinds of fats and how they work in our bodies.
Here we go!
So – let’s face it, there is a lot of confusion these days as to what exactly it is that is causing the great obesity epidemic. And I’ll tell you right now, it may not be what you think it is.
A lot of times, when people are discussing whether or not a particular food is ‘healthy’, the only variable they look at is the amount of calories.. “Well, it’s only got __ calories per serving, so it’s not that bad”. The problem with this is that in truth, calories don’t count like that. Weight maintenance is not a simple equation of calories in vs calories out. For one thing, everybody is different – some people have sensitivities to gluten which can cause them to gain weight extremely fast when they eat it; some people have insulin resistance and can put on the pounds faster than you can say “Bob’s your uncle” when they eat carbs and sugar. Some people have thyroid issues, adrenal fatigue or other hormone imbalances or metabolism issues that contribute to weight gain. The point here is that every body is different.
Now, having said that, there are of course some foods that will indisputably cause us all to gain weight eventually - sugar, chemical additives, high-carb foods, alcohol, processed and refined food, fast food.. I could go on, but interestingly enough, I would not include good quality fats on this list. Good quality fats. Not all fats are created equal, and it may surprise you to find out that the fats that I consider good quality, may not be the same ones you are thinking of or have heard touted as being “Heart Healthy”. Quite the opposite in fact…
If we really look at this issue objectively.. we can see that it just doesn’t make sense that fats cause weight gain. The eskimo’s, for example, on traditional diets, consume wale blubber and fatty animal meat and organs almost exclusively – and yet, have no recorded cases of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes or obesity (note, this is only true of their traditional diets – as soon as western food is introduced, they fall victim to the same health issues as the rest of us). This can be seen in many traditional cultures around the world. It can even be seen in our own history right here in North America. Think about it.. were our ancestors concerned about counting calories or avoiding certain foods because they were high in fat? Certainly not.
But in the early twentieth century, things changed. We no longer were consuming real, whole, natural food anymore. All of a sudden there were more choices, more processed food, and less emphasis on real food! Interestingly.. this is right about the same time the obesity epidemic first started. In response to the rise in obesity rates, an enemy was chosen. That enemy was fat. However, if the theory about fat causing weight gain were true, wouldn’t we expect to find much more fat in our diets today, corresponding to the high rates of obesity? In fact, the opposite is true. *Now, I have to make one thing clear here – I am talking about natural, animal and tropical fats, not factory-produced and altered vegetable oils – that’s a whole different ball game.
The obesity epidemic corresponds directly with the increase in consumption of processed food, and the decline in consumption of healthy animal fats. This is just a fact. And what is in processed food? A lot of sugar, refined carbs, preservatives, artificial ingredients and chemicals.
In fact, the science has never supported the low-fat theory, and in September 2013 Sweden became the first Western nation to formally reject the low-fat diet in favour of a high-fat, low-carb diet for its national nutrition guidelines. That’s right. This decision came after a two year long review of 16,000 studies done on the subject. This is pretty amazing – you can read the whole story here.
Not only does fat NOT contribute to weight gain, it is a vitally important component of our diets. It contains and transports all the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) into our bodies; it is an important part of cell membranes; it is a very concentrated source of energy; it helps keep blood sugar stable; it makes us feel full (and consequently eat less); and cholesterol in particular is a potent antioxidant, is vital to mental functioning and is the precursor of many important hormones.
That is it for today! Keep an eye on the blog for the next instalment on the Fat Debate when we dive into the science and take a good hard look at the evidence.