The Low-Fat Fable
For decades, we have been told that obesity and heart disease epidemics were caused by fat. The experts theorized that because fat is high in calories it cannot make a lean body. The original 1992 edition of the United States Department of Agriculture “food pyramid” went so far as to recommend up to 11 daily servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta.
“Fat makes you fat” made sense to people and their doctors, and it created a demand for foods that had been processed to remove fat content. Food factories replaced animal fats with sugars and other carbohydrates as the foundation of a healthy diet. They developed a slew of reduced-fat products bulked up with sugar and infused with artery-corroding trans-fats.
But the science behind the low-fat, high-carb diet was thin. Today, knowledge of nutrition has advanced, and many studies support the conclusion that low-fat diets are actually harmful.
Always Hungry author David Ludwig says these additives in low-fat foods created an “insulin-carbohydrate” situation that interferes with the self-balancing equilibrium of the body and causes obesity. Sugars and other carbohydrates break down into glucose in the blood, prompting the pancreas to produce excess insulin. This causes overeating and subsequent weight gain.
This simple, recognized science was ignored by the American Heart Association, which dove into the mix with its “heart healthy” white check seal of approval, implying that these processed wares were healthier than even whole, fresh foods (Oxford Academic).
Instead of becoming healthier, Americans grew fatter and sicker. Obesity rates, at 15 percent from 1950 to 1980, more than doubled to 35 percent by 2000.
Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz wrote that the last 40 years of nutritional science have been politicized and deeply flawed, a large-scale experiment that delivered a cure worse than the ailment.
Low-fat diets lead to deficiencies of Vitamins A, D, E and K because the body is unable to absorb them without sufficient fat intake. This increases the risk of brittle bones, a compromised immune system, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and multiple sclerosis. A review of 26 studies with more than 1 million participants also demonstrated a risk of stroke with low dietary fat intake.
Dr. Aseem Malhotra, of the Public Health Collaboration, stated that dietary guidelines promoting low-fat foods were “perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history.”
There are three main types of fats: trans fats, saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Manufactured trans fats added to processed foods raise unhealthy ldl cholesterol levels while simultaneously lowering healthy hdl levels. Though practically eliminated from the food supply due to a 2015 fda ban, they still exist in some manufacturing processes. These truly are “evil” fats.
But saturated fats from natural foods like dairy, coconut oil or red meats, when consumed in the proper amounts, are healthy for you. People have been eating them and benefiting from them for thousands of years. Unsaturated fats, which can be either monounsaturated (olive oil) or polyunsaturated (tuna and salmon), are also healthy. Your body requires these fats to protect cell membranes and bones; prevent heart disease; improve liver, lung and kidney function, immune system and detoxification; increase metabolism; and help weight loss (Sanesco).
Some unsaturated fats are bad for you. These unnatural polyunsaturated fats include cooking oils from canola, sunflower, corn, soybean, cottonseed, safflower, grape seed and most commercial vegetable oils. Processing techniques cause them to become rancid before you buy them, even though this rancidity is masked by other additives.
Avoiding dietary fat is unwise and has damaged the health of millions of people. To avoid confusion, remember these three principles: 1) eat natural, nutritious whole foods; 2) avoid processed foods; and 3) portion your meals to what you need, not what you want.
Healthy fats are a primary energy source, and you must consume essential fatty acids to support the basic functions of your body. Daily fat requirements vary from person to person, but focus on eating healthy fats with each meal and working up from there until you are satiated.
The Creator of the human body wants to see you thrive with abundant health. He actually specifically endorses saturated fats like butter, milk, cheese and red meat (Genesis 18:8; 2 Samuel 17:29).
Even in today’s misguided world of poor nutrition, you can apply God’s biblical principles and experience the wonderful health blessings He created you to enjoy.