“Saying we become fat by eating fat is like saying we become green by eating green vegetables.” — Paraphrase of Uffe Ravnskov, MD, Ph.D.
We are told that sugar-laden muffins, nutritionally neutered toast, and insulin-exploding juice are part of a balanced, nutritious breakfast because they are low in fat. After decades of this many of us now look at food and ask ourselves, “Is this low in fat?” If the answer is yes, we think it is healthy. Yet foods that contain fat are not necessarily unhealthy. Researcher M. Leosdottir from Lund University stated:
“Most researchers today agree on total fat intake not being a risk factor for cardiovascular disease or cancer.”
In addition to not killing us, foods containing fat do not make us fat. We’ve been told they do because a gram of fat contains more calories than a gram of carbohydrate or protein. Fat has nine calories per gram while protein and carbohydrate only have four. The problem is that fat’s higher quantity of calories does not mean eating it causes us to store body fat. That thinking is rooted in the Calories In – Calories Out theory of fat loss, which we now know is wrong.
According to the National Academy of Sciences:
“Obesity itself has not been found to be associated with dietary fat in either inter- or intra- population studies.”
Harvard researcher W.C. Willett adds
“There is no good evidence linking dietary fat with excess weight. In fact, there is plenty of evidence showing that the percentage of calories from fat is not the culprit leading to excess weight…In country-to-country surveys across Europe, women with the lowest fat intake are the most likely to be obese, while those with the highest fat intake are the least likely.”
A fellow researcher at Harvard, F.B. Hu, makes a similar point:
“Although reduction in percentage of calories from dietary fat intake is commonly recommended for weight loss, long-term clinical trials have provided no good evidence that reducing dietary fat per se can lead to weight loss.”
This data seems counterintuitive because we’ve been led to believe that eating fat encourages overeating. We’ve been misinformed.
Think back to Satiety. Water, fiber, and protein play the biggest role in the Satiety of food, and Satiety determines how many calories we eat. Notice how there is no mention of fat there. Many water-, fiber-, and protein-packed foods contain fat. For example, seafood, meat, nuts, and flax seeds all contain fat. But when we focus on eating less fat, we replace these high-Satiety foods with low-Satiety starches and sweets. Since low-Satiety foods require more calories to fill us up, this swap causes us to eat more—not less—calories. So, far from discouraging overeating, avoiding SANE foods that contain fat encourages overeating.
The last four decades of data tell the same story. We were told to avoid eating fat, so we reduced our relative intake of fat, increased our intake of starches and sweets, increased our total caloric intake, and ended up heavier and diabetic as a result.
Less Natural Foods Containing Fat, More Overeating
Less Natural Foods Containing Fat, More Body Fat
How We Eat vs. Our Incidence of Weight Gain
How We Eat vs. Our Incidence of Diabetes
The government knows this too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported:
“During 1971-2000, a statistically significant increase in average energy intake occurred…The increase in energy intake is attributable primarily to an increase in carbohydrate intake.”
Even the authors of the government’s guidelines—the U.S. Department of Agriculture—have gone on record stating that since the 1970s the major dietary trend has been a:
“greatly increased consumption of carbohydrates.”
They found that starch consumption had increased by nearly sixty pounds per person per year, and sweetener consumption had increased by nearly thirty pounds. That is ninety additional pounds of low-quality low-Satiety food—every year.
The emphasis on low fat leads to inSANEity and misses an important point. Long-term health and fat loss does not result from diets low in fat, carbohydrate, or protein. Fat is not evil. Carbohydrates are not bad. And protein is not dangerous. The best way to burn body fat is to be balanced and SANE.
However, when you look at the government’s pyramid and plate, balance is nowhere to be found:
The Food Guide Pyramid/MyPyramid
How are these balanced diets? They are high in carbohydrates and low in everything else. Consider the high-fat Atkins diet. It is called “high-fat” because it advises individuals to get 65% of their calories from fat. Look at the USDA’s pyramid and plate diets that advise us to get 65% of our calories from carbohydrate. Doesn’t that make them high-carbohydrate diets? This could be why the January 13, 2011, edition of USA Today poked fun at the 72% of Americans who claimed to eat a balanced diet. The implication: “How could 70% of you be overweight if you ate a balanced diet?” We could easily be overweight if the “balanced” diet we are told to eat by the government is actually out of balance.
This imbalance exists in other guidelines as well. The American Heart Association Nutrition Committee calls a 40% carbohydrate, 30% fat, and 30% protein diet a “low-carbohydrate/very-high-protein diet.” Since when does 40:30:30 indicate that anything is very high?
What could be the reason for this confusion? The answer lies in another myth that has been proven false: eating foods that contain fat leads to unhealthy cholesterol levels. We’ll dig into this cholesterol confusion in the next post.
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