Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Fat is where it's at!

In case you haven't heard, fat will not make you fat.  Thats right, I said it, fat is actually what your body craves and needs!  Not all fats are good however, and you may be surprised at who the true villains are.

What the body desires more than anything is balance. It's not that Omega 3's are good and Omega 6's are bad. The body needs a balance of these two polyunsaturated fats, ideally a 1:1 ratio. However the typical American diet is steeped in Omega 6's and stripped of Omega 3's, and the one sure fire food to bring it into balance, fish, is often tainted with contaminants. This is the one grey area were it is advisable to supplement.  I suggest a high quality cod liver oil for the vitamin A and D, plus a purity certified fish oil for  the Omega 3's.

Now for the bad.  In America we have been told eat vegetable oil, it's heart healthy, and reduces cholesterol.  This is a load of crap, spoon fed to us by some of the largest corporations in America like Archer Daniels Midland.  These companies spend a lot of money lobbying politicians and funding research, and it works to their favor.  The evidence is indisputable that high consumption of corn oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil (aka canola), cottonseed oil etc. correlates to higher cancer rates.  Many links to this here, and here and here  and here.

Now for the unexpected. Foods we've been told are bad: eggs, butter, saturated fats such as coconut milk, animal fats, raw milk, avocados, and nuts have many positive health benefits.  The real issue with these foods is not are they good for you, it is how were they cultivated. We must be sure to eat at the very least Free Range and Organic (at least 80% of the time, as Mark Sisson from Mark's Daily Apple says). At best we would be consuming pastured chickens and eggs, grass finished ruminants, and organic nuts, veggies and fruits.

Nature has a plan, and in eggs it is to eat the yolk with the egg white.  In milk it is to consume the whole milk, fat and all!  The fats are important for our body because they help us carry out numerous functions at the cellular level. Fat is used in the cell structure itself, and is the body's preferred method of energy storage.  In fact carbohydrates have to be converted to triglycerides (a type of fat) in the liver before being stored away.

Saturated fat, gets the award for being the underdog in the world of fats.  It is in fact vital for our bodies to function properly.  For simplicity sake I am going to quote Mary G. Enig, PhD from her article The Importance of Saturated Fats for Biological Functions :

"When researchers looked at the fatty acid composition of the phospholipids in the T-cells (white blood cells), from both young and old donors, they found that a loss of saturated fatty acids in the lymphocytes was responsible for age-related declines in white blood cell function. They found that they could correct cellular deficiencies in palmitic acid and myristic acid by adding these saturated fatty acids.

Most Westerners consume very little myristic acid because it is provided by coconut oil and dairy fats, both of which we are told to avoid. But myristic acid is a very important fatty acid, which the body uses to stabilize many different proteins, including proteins used in the immune system and to fight tumors. This function is called myristoylation; it occurs when myristic acid is attached to the protein in a specific position where it functions usefully. For example, the body has the ability to suppress production of tumors from lung cancer cells if a certain genetically determined suppressor gene is available. This gene is called fus1 and is a protein that has been modified with covalent addition of the saturated fatty acid myristic acid. Thus, the loss of myristic acid from the diet can have unfortunate consequences, including cancer and immune system dysfunction."

Doesn't seem like saturated fat is our true enemy.  Definitely read the whole article if you get a chance, it is very informative.

Here is the way I see it.  If fat is found naturally in a whole food, plant or animal, eat it.  If fat is created through a refining process, most specifically vegetable oils, avoid it like the plague! Especially avoid hydrogenated fats!  These are the dreaded source of transfatty acids. The only exceptions to this rule are high quality, virgin cold pressed, hopefully organic olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil.

Of course there is one more fat you should avoid.  It is one that you don't see, because it starts out as carbohydrate. Avoid refined carbohydrates (flour, sugar, rice etc.) because they convert to triglycerides in the liver.  The naughty triglyceride is perhaps the single highest indicator of heart disease, above and beyond LDL cholesterol.  Worse yet, as Gary Taubes points out in Good Calories, Bad Calories, "Carbohydrate drives insulin, and insulin drives fat storage".  What he is saying is fat does not make us fat. Our bad guy is Refined Carbohydrate, and his companion insulin.

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