We have been taught for decades to fear fat. To eat fat in small quantities. To avoid it. We’ve been told to stick to vegetable oils and to avoid saturated fat. We trim the fat off the meat that we eat and even if you venture into the bacon thing, you blot the fat with a paper towel.
We’ve been told since the late seventies, when the US nutrition guidelines were first proposed to eat a diet that is low in fat, high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein. We’ve been told to stick to the polyunsaturated vegetable oils (PUFAs) like Canola and Soy Bean oil. To eat “heart healthy” oats, cereals, breads, and pastas.
Some would argue that that the nutrition guidelines, fully published in 1983 without supporting evidence, has been the greatest experiment in metabolic health ever perpetrated on a mass population. Our population has followed the standard American diet (SAD) which is low in fat, high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein for literal decades. Diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) have skyrocketed. Over 52% of our population in their sixties is prediabetic or diabetic, obesity numbers pretty much mirror diabetes, and the CVD rate is about 50% of the population.
As a health coach and an advocate for the low carb, high fat and moderate protein diet, otherwise known as a ketogenic diet, I often hear worries about “eating all that fat” when working with potential clients or even members of my extended family. Most of you that follow me know that I was prediabetic and reversed my condition by switching to the keto lifestyle. Now, nearly two years later I’ve seen my blood glucose normalize along with my A1C and my lipid profile has shifted extensively from a state of dyslipidemia towards normalization. I’ve seen a 19% reduction in my weight in the same time period. I eat about 70-80% fat in my diet and maintain close to 50 grams of carbs per day and eat moderate protein.
So what is the truth about eating all this fat and cholesterol? What does the science say about this?
First, it is important to realize that most of the world is eating the SAD diet and a recent study suggests that only about 12% of this population is metabolically healthy. Yes, I actually said only 12% of the worlds population is healthy. Most people would be smart to reduce the carbs in their lifestyle. However, reducing the carbs without any other modification to the diet means reducing calories and that means people are walking around hungry so fat is elevated to offset the loss in calories. Elevating the fat offsets the hunger issue which makes the ketogenic diet sustainable. (https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/met.2018.0105).
So the question regarding the perception of safety in eating fat comes front and center in a sea of carboholics who fear even the sight of a stick of butter. And the answer is one of context. In figure 1, I have summarized fat consumption as a function of dietary context—whether you are eating fat in a low carb or high carb environment. This figure represents the summation of much research in this area (https://youtu.be/vGmFe3odTAc; https://boomer-100.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/LDL-C-does-not-cause-cardiovascular-disease-a-comprehensive-review-of-the-current-literature-17512433.2018.1519391.pdf).
How you respond to fat depends on your global genetics and how those genetics respond to the environment. The environment is the range and proportions of nutrients that you put in your body. People exist on a continuum with the extremes being the low fat, high carb diet on one side and the high fat, low carb diet in the other extreme.
To summarize the literature regarding the SAD—low fat, high carb diet. Eating a high percentage of carbs causes dyslipidemia and chronic disease: Fat storage in fat cells is maximized, fat synthesis is stimulated, high triglycerides and a low HDL are the result along with high systemic inflammation and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that it takes the release of more insulin to drive glucose into cells and chronically high insulin drives chronic disease.
Looking at the other end of the continuum, a diet high in fat and low in carbs supports a normal lipid profile with little if any chronic disease: Fat oxidation (burning of fat) is normalized with a decrease in fat synthesis. Triglycerides are lowered and HDL rises along with low systemic inflammation and increased insulin sensitivity—a normal and robust response to insulin driving glucose into cells.
The truth about cholesterol is equally compelling: First and foremost total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol do not cause cardiovascular disease (CVD) (Figure 2). The only evidence that the medical establishment has for asserting that cholesterol causes CVD is associational or epidemiological which is data that cannot be used to show cause.
On the other hand there is substantial non-associational data that demonstrates that most markers of CVD improve on the high fat, low carb diet. LDL has been shown to improve lifespan and generally when people pass away due to a CVD event a substantial portion have low or normal LDL cholesterol. Furthermore, if LDL cholesterol is the driver of CVD, then why, when it is lowered using statins, is there no decrease in CVD events?
So the question about the safety of fat boils down to your lifestyle. If you eat a diet that is high in carbohydrates then it is probably not a good idea to eat a lot of fat since this way of eating encourages dyslipidemia and systemic inflammation. If, on the other hand, you practice the low carb lifestyle, fat is safe and essential to a potentially long healthy life.
Where do you fall on the continuum? Comment below and let us know! What do you think about fat?
Am I Going To Die From All The Fat That I Eat? https://youtu.be/IhB8fmMNzGY
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