Dietary Fat Is Not The Villain
In recent posts, we have tried to demonstrate to you that sugar is the enemy of health, causing inflammation and potentially leading to type 3 diabetes (cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease). Despite many medical practitioners and scientists publishing studies for several decades and saying that dietary fat is not the villain previously thought, there is still a widely held belief that we should aim for a low fat, high carbohydrate diet.
The Problem was the Food Pyramid
This emerged in the US in 1977 and around the same time in the UK and Australia. It placed carbohydrates at the base of the pyramid (both refined and complex carbs) and encouraged people to make this the main stay of their diet. At that time, and for many decades after, the dietary guidelines demonised dietary fat, and cholesterol rich foods, on the basis that this led to cholesterol build up and heart disease, and also made you fat in the process.
For nearly 40 years, dietary fat has had a bad rap and this has led to a massive industry of low fat food products. But if dietary fat is not the villain it has been made out to be, what is?
The answer is our old friend sugar. There are just three macronutrients
protein, carbohydrate and fat.
If you remove one of them, then the energy (calories) stored in that food will need to be replaced by something else in order to supply the same energy value to the consumer.
In order to make up for the calories extracted from processed low fat foods by removing the fat content, the cheapest solution for the giant food multinationals is to add more carbohydrate.
The Perfect Storm
So for nearly 40 years people have been led to believe that fat is bad and so they have increased the carbs in their diet, but by buying low fat processed foods to help their heart health they have unwittingly further increased their carb intake.
Take a close look at the trend graph of overweight and obese adults in the US from 1960 to 2010 . Pretty revealing – especially the increase that started around 1977 when the food pyramid was published.
In Western societies, the last 40 years has coincided not only with an epidemic of obesity, but also type 2 diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases. Could there be a link between so many of the diseases we see today, especially in children and young adults, and the excessive consumption of carbohydrates which convert to sugar in our bodies? Could it be that dietary fat is not the villain we thought?
Obviously, the problem is multifactorial with changes in lifestyle and increased stress playing a large role in this health crisis. But it is interesting to speculate what would have happened to health in the Western world, if the food pyramid guidelines published in the 1970s had, for example, demonised carbohydrates and sugar and not made dietary fat the bad guy.
Dietary Fat is not the Villain
Sept 1982 Multi Risk Factor Intervention Trial 
This trial was published a long time ago, over 34 years, and involved 12,866 men aged 35 – 57 all at high risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). They were followed for over 7 years, so the study started in the mid 1970s.
The participants were randomly assigned to a special intervention program consisting of treatment for hypertension, counselling for cigarette smoking, and dietary advice for lowering blood cholesterol levels (ie eat less saturated fats and cholesterol containing foods and consume more vegetable oils), or to their usual sources of health care in the community (the control group).
After 7 years, there was zero statistically significant difference in mortality due to CHD in the two groups. If dietary fat was the villain, especially amongst such a large high risk group of men, you would have expected that the low fat diet would have saved many more lives than in the control group. But the low fat diet was totally ineffective and produced no mortality benefits to the men on it.
Are all Dietary Fats Equal?
No they are not. Everyone, including mainstream medicine and the updated guidelines, knows that trans fats from fast foods are to be avoided. But there is much conflicting advice with regards to vegetable oils, which are still touted as being healthy, and saturated fats, which are considered by many not to be good for us. But if dietary fat is not the villain – the devil is in the detail, as is so often the case in life.
Vegetable oils are in general produced by a heating process, which changes the nature of the oil. Vegetable oils go rancid quickly when exposed to light, air and heat, and are comprised of mostly Omega 6 fatty acids. Keeping the balance in our bodies between omega 3 and omega 6 ideally near 1:1 is the goal in terms of avoiding heart disease and vascular problems.
But with vegetable oil appearing as an ingredient in virtually all conventionally processed food because it is cheap, we do not want or need more omega 6 in our diet – quite the reverse.
We have been omnivores and eaten animals for millennia, and, whilst we do not agree with modern animal husbandry practices for ethical reasons, there is no doubting that animal products have served us well nutritionally as a species. So saturated animal fat is unlikely to be as bad for us as we have been told, otherwise we would never have survived as a species.
The trouble is that today so little of the meat that is available to consumers comes close to the quality of animals farmed in the past. Think grass fed, no antibiotics, no hormones, and grass that is grown in soil that has not been demineralised by over farming and fertilising. How much of the meat consumed today would come close to the quality of 100 years ago?
What Main Fats to Consume?
In our humble opinion, it is really quite simple. Consume the best quality fats you can afford comprising:-
- Organic butter
- Ghee made from organic butter
- Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil (Australian certified if you live in Australia)
- Organic extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil from Sri Lanka (never goes rancid and ideal for high temperatures)
- Organic grass fed meats and organ meats
- Wild caught oily fish, no larger than salmon due to mercury accumulation in larger fish
- Organic free range eggs
- Spray free/organic avocados
Obviously, there are good fats and oils from seeds and nuts, but the sources above will provide the majority of your fats unless you are vegan or vegetarian.
Ghee is so easy to make from organic butter and is a really versatile fat for most cooking needs. Watch out for a post on how to make ghee later this week.
Interestingly, cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death in the West, so 40 years of low fat eating appears to have had little effect on heart disease. We wonder why. Could it be that good dietary fat is not the villain after all?
In search of the purest dietary fats, Edith and Tim at CoolWellbeing Foundation
Related articles you might like
- The Great Olive Oil Hoax
- Composition of Dietary Fats
- Are You Fat Deficient
- Definitions of Fat by Mary Enig