Consuming Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

Are you ever confused by what makes you fat?  Is it because you consume too much fat?  Or does sugar play a big role in making us fat?

The question:  What makes you fat?

The answer may surprise you:  Consuming fat does not make you fat!  Consuming sugar makes you fat!

Why Do We Believe That Consuming Fat Makes Us Fat?

All this hype started with the Dr. Ancel Key’s “Seven Countries Study” decades ago that examined heart risk based on lifestyle and dietary habits.  He found that in the countries where people ate more fat—especially saturated fat—there were more cases of heart disease, and he concluded that the fat caused the disease.

But here’s the problem with this study: correlation is not causation.  Just because both fat intake and heart disease were higher among the same population doesn’t mean the heart disease was caused by the fat consumption.  Here’s another way to look at it: Every day, you wake up and the sun comes up, but although these events happen at the same time, you waking up doesn’t cause the sun to come up.

A study that observed this would show a 100% correlation between these two events, but it would be wrong to conclude that you caused the sun to rise. Because of studies like this, we became sidetracked into believing that saturated fat causes heart disease. But in fact, we are now learning that sugar is the true culprit, not fat.

A review of all the research on saturated fat published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found there was no correlation between saturated fat and heart disease.  And a recent editorial in the British Journal of Medicine hammers home the same point and shatters the myth that fat causes obesity and heart disease.  Researchers have found that, while it’s true that lowering saturated fat in the diet may lower total cholesterol, it’s actually lowering the good kind of cholesterol, the light, fluffy, buoyant LDL that’s not a problem.

When people eat less fat, they tend to eat more starch or sugar instead, and this actually increases their levels of dangerous cholesterol, the small, dense cholesterol that causes heart attacks. In fact, studies show that 75% of people who end up in the emergency room with a heart attack have normal overall cholesterol levels. What they do have is pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

What About Eating Low Fat?  lowfat

Eating a diet with good quality fat and protein prevents and even reverses diabetes and pre-diabetes (diabesity).  And eating sugar and refined carbs cause diabesity.  I encourage you to look at the issue of fat and sugar in a totally different way. Don’t cut out the fat; enjoy it! But, you need to incorporate the good fats into your diet.  These are not typical “low fat” foods and that is okay.

Here are my favorite sources of good fat:

Avocados

Nuts—walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, but not peanuts (one recent study showed a handful of nuts a day reduced death from all causes by 20 percent)

Seeds—pumpkin, sesame, chia, hemp

Fatty fish, including sardines, mackerel, herring, and wild salmon that are rich in omega-3 fats

Extra virgin olive oil (a large study showed that those who consumed 1 liter a week reduced heart attacks by 30 percent)

Enjoy grass-fed or sustainably raised animal products (I recommend the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eater’s Guide to eating good quality animal products that are good for you and good for the planet).

You can even eat saturated fat like extra virgin coconut butter, which is a great plant-based source of saturated fat that has many benefits. It fuels your mitochondria, is anti-inflammatory, and it doesn’t cause problems with your cholesterol.  Many diabetic patients’ health improves once they get on diet that’s higher in fat.

How Much Fat Do You Need?

Dr. Mark Hyman has done research on this very subject and he was talking to researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center who indicated that low fat recommendations for diabetics promoted by the American Diabetic Association has in fact been harmful, bad advice making diabetes worse!   In fact, their new research shows that diabetics should be switching to a diet that’s about 30% fat, 30% protein, and about 40% low starch vegetables and fruits (carbohydrates). That turns their previous advice on its head.

Avoid Sugar Like The Plague 

Most of us know we consume more sugar than we should. Let’s be honest, it’s hard not to. The (new) bad news is that sugar does more damage to our bodies than we originally thought. It was once considered to be just another marker for an unhealthy diet and obesity. Now sugar is considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, as well as many other chronic diseases, according a study published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Sugar is void of nutrition and offers nothing more than empty calories.  Too much sugar doesn’t just make you fat, it makes you sick.

But how much is too much? Turns out not nearly as much as you may think.  As a few doctors and scientists have been screaming for a while now, a little bit of sugar goes a long way.

Added sugars, according to most experts, are far more harmful to our bodies than naturally-occurring sugars.  We’re talking about the sugars used in processed or prepared foods like sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, candy, ready-to-eat cereal and yeast breads. Your fruits and (natural) fruit juices are safe.

Recommendations for your daily allotment of added sugar vary widely:

  • The Institute of Medicine recommends that added sugars make up less than 25% of your total calories
  • The World Health Organization recommends less than 10%
  • The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to less than 100 calories daily for women and 150 calories daily for men

Note:  The U.S. government hasn’t issued a dietary limit for added sugars, like it has for calories, fats, sodium, etc. Furthermore, sugar is classified by the Food and Drug administration as “generally safe,” which allows manufacturers to add unlimited amounts to any food.

The Conclusion About Fat

So here’s the take-home message: Fat doesn’t make you fat. Sugar makes you fat. Eating good fats can actually help you stay healthy. So, eat good quality fats and real, whole, fresh food, and don’t worry about it.

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