Remember the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away?”
Turns out all those apples may be keeping the doctors in business.
Persistent myths, and a lack of understanding of physiology and basic science is how the food industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and your doctor keep you sick, tired, and a repeat customer.
And the most confusion and lies center around one topic – FATS.
THE BIG FAT LIE
For decades we have been fed straight up lies on fat.
Fat causes heart disease!
Fat clogs your arteries!
Fat gives you high cholesterol!
You will have a heart attack!
Let’s not blame the butter for what the bread did, shall we?
This may come as a surprise, but all of it is not true. It is all simply nonsense. These ideas are not supported by any facts, science, or studies.
1. Saturated fat does not cause heart disease
Literally one of my favourite persistent myths to shred. Nothing gets me more irked than this. I’m getting an angry twitch just writing about this stupidity.
The lipid hypothesis – that saturated fats were the cause of heart disease – was originally proposed by Ancel Keys in the 1950s where he recommended reducing saturated fat as a way to “prevent” heart disease.
I won’t dive into the controversy and deception that he built his entire career on. Suffice it to say he withheld data, fudged, out right lied and manipulated his “studies” to support this bogus theory.
His “studies”, and I use the word “studies” liberally here, put the scientific method (a query with an unbiased hypothesis) to shame.
Also of importance to note is this theory came out almost 70 years ago.
So, you know, current.
This bullshit theory miraculously continues to stink today, and is recommended by many doctors currently in practice. Purported by the large pharmaceutical companies that buy said doctors off as well as many national organizations.
I’m looking at you, American Heart Association.
To give some context of quackery they called medicine when Keys was around, routine lobotomies were the current treatment du jour for a wide, unrelated, range of symptoms. Schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and even mild headaches were routinely treated with lobotomies.
A mild goddamn headache.
Can you imagine?
You’re visiting your doctor to help you resolve some mild, but persistent headaches, and what does he do? Insert a 10 inch pick into your eyes, penetrating through to your brain, and wiggled it around your frontal lobe a bit.
Mild headache gone. Along with your personality, your higher level decisions, cognition, happiness, and joy.
Lobotomies for headaches were just as stupid as the idea saturated fat causing heart disease.
To make matters worse, national organizations like the American Heart Association continue to recommend low-fat, and low saturated fat as part of a “heart-healthy” diet, and to avoid saturated fat as much as possible.
It is worth noting here who supports the AHA.
Drug companies, specifically ones that manufacture drugs like statins (which are marketed to help reduce cholesterol and holy hanna do nothing of the sort) support organizations like the AHA.
So, let’s break this down. Drug company funds national heart association. National heart association tells the public to eat foods that support the progression of heart disease. Pharmaceuticals that fund national association also *happen* to make drugs for heart disease.
It doesn’t take much to connect that this organization is more interested in profiteering and not the people it claims to serve.
Heart disease is classically defined as a triad of chronic elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and narrowing or blocked arteries.
Fat, including saturated fat, does NONE of these things when it is combined with a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate lifestyle. When you combine this keto style diet with fasting, heart disease shrinks away like the manageable lifestyle problem that it is.
Who’s the big bad wolf now?
2. Fat does not clog your arteries
In fact, the exact reverse is true – when you eat a low fat, high carbohydrate diet – you will hold more water and more salt (which increases your blood pressure), your liver will push out more LDLs and VLDLs instead of HDLs (leading to elevated “bad” cholesterol levels), and both of these combined will cause thickening in the artery walls, making them more susceptible to microtearing, which will attract cholesterol to the site to repair it.
Anyone who says otherwise, please direct them to open up a basic book on physiology. Or read THIS.
Fat, including saturated fat, does not get stored in our arteries. Fat is an energy source, and is either broken down to be used as fuel, or it is stored for later use.
Fat is stored in cells, not arteries.
The clogging of arteries happens when we are chronically inflamed – a deadly spiral often from eating too many carbohydrates, suffering from chronic stress, not moving enough, or being in toxic relationships (whether it be in our personal, or professional lives, or often both). NOT from consuming fat.
Lots of stress (be it physical or chemical) will cause inflammation and microtears in the arterial walls. So, being the brilliant machine you are, your mighty cholesterol flies to the scene and lovingly patches things up. They are like the first responders, the emergency paramedics if you will, to inflammation, and what is typically found in autopsies of those with heart disease.
Would you blame the paramedics for responding to a distress call? Of course not. Just like you cannot blame saturated fat for atherosclerosis.
In this study, they looked at the effects of saturated fat consumption in women and whether it progressed atherosclerosis. What they found was an inverse relationship between saturated fat consumption and atherosclerosis progression. That is, the more saturated fat these ladies consumed, the less likely signs of atherosclerosis were found.
Suck it, Ancel Keys.
And, unsurprisingly, the participants who swapped out saturated fat for carbohydrates, and even polyunsaturated fat found there was an increase in coronary artery progression.
This is why looking at science matters.
3. Fat consumption isn’t why you store fat
Consuming fat does not make you fat.
Eating bread, and other simple carbohydrates like pastas, rice, grains, and fruits are rapidly converted to glucose by the liver and rapidly spikes serum insulin levels, which is our fat storing hormone.
When insulin levels are high, you are storing fat.
What’s even more compelling is the knock on effects of NOT eating a high fat diet. Study after study after study also show a strong correlation between excess carbohydrate consumption and Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Coronary Artery Disease , elevated fasting triglyceride levels , and Alzheimers.
I would be remiss if I also did not point out that excess protein consumption ALSO leads to very similar, potentially worse, outcomes. Eating excess carbohydrates elevates insulin. Eating protein activates BOTH insulin and mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin).
Yes, my Paleo aficionados. Carbs are bad, and lots of protein may be just as bad, if not worse. A topic for a future article…
Point is, you are either burning fat or storing fat. You cannot do both at the same time.
Just like you cannot walk forwards and backwards simultaneously. Or be in drive and reverse. Or be awake and asleep simultaneously. You get the picture. They are opposite functions and cannot be done simultaneously.
When your insulin is high from excess carbohydrates (or protein) you stop burning fat, and start storing it.
4. Saturated fat is a stable source of energy
One of the things I love most about eating nutritious fat is how long it lasts. Fat is a clean burning, stable source of energy. Especially saturated fat.
This is what a molecule of saturated fat looks like:
See all those H’s (hydrogen) around the C’s (carbon)? All those H’s create stability to the molecule and it prevents lone oxygen molecules from bonding and oxidizing it.
Saturated fat is stable, clean burning, and resistant to oxidation. She’s the molecule that says “sorry, you can’t sit with us” to oxygen, thereby preventing an increase in free radical production, mitochondrial damage, negatively affects energy production, and causes premature aging.
5. Eating fat does not cause high cholesterol
Eating fat has almost no effect on cholesterol.
So nice, I’ll write it twice.
Eating fat has almost no effect on cholesterol.
Processed carbohydrates do.
Lots of carbohydrates will cause an increase in triglyceride production by the liver, which is pushed out as LDLs. These are highly unstable carriers of cholesterol. They will oxidize and cause inflammation abound. Unlike the better constructed, HDL, which is far more stable carrier.
When your doctor tells you to eat foods low in cholesterol, there is just no way this is going to have any effect on your elevated cholesterol levels..
Lowering cholesterol containing foods (like whole eggs, butter, ghee, chicken and animal products) are going to do zip.
Zero. Nada. Zilch. Rien.
Why? Your liver makes most of your cholesterol to begin with (we’re talking around 80%) so what you eat or (or don’t eat) cannot significantly lower the amount of cholesterol produced.
Your liver will, in response to your low cholesterol intake, increase its output to compensate for it.
Your liver knows cholesterol is super duper freaking important.
It repairs us, it is an energy source, it is a precursor to all our sex hormones. It is what allows us to be mobile, and to have a nervous system. We should NEVER try to lower the cholesterol…just the package it is sent into the body with (keep reading…I’ll explain)
So now, imagine you’re at your follow up appointment with the doctor and all you’ve done is lower your cholesterol foods, …
Very predictably, your doctor will tell you there is no change in your cholesterol. She will likely follow that with a prescription and life sentence to statin medications.
It is not surprising in any way that your cholesterol levels have not changed. Your liver is working over time because you have lowered your cholesterol intake, and no one has told you to cut out the carbs.
You cannot medicate your way out of a problem you behaved yourself into.
That goes for heart disease, cholesterol, or any other preventable lifestyle disease.
Statins do nothing to address the unstable carrier LDL, or the oxidation and inflammation and damage that ensues.
Only diet can do that.
Specifically, lowering your carbohydrates so that your liver can create better carriers for your cholesterol (HDLs)
Statins have been shown to destroy your brain, your muscles, nerve damage, your cognitive abilities, and destroy the very thing they are designed to protect against – they calcify your arteries, your heart valves, and your heart muscle itself. Make you far more susceptible to a heart attack.
When it would be far simpler to just reduce your carbohydrate intake.
Your carbohydrate intake is the single biggest predictor of whether your beautiful cholesterol gets wrapped up in a strong package or a weak one.
A pristine Ferrari engine goes in a Ferrari, not a rusty broken down lemon. Eat a high fat, low carb diet and you’re the Ferrari. Eat lots of carbs and you’re the lemon.
6. Vegetable oil is actually terrible for you.
…even though vegetables are great for you.
This idea that vegetables are great but vegetable oils are not can be confusing.
Let me explain.
There are 2 main types of fatty acids – Omega-3 and Omega-6.
For the most part, omega -3 fats are classified as anti-inflammatory, and Omega -6 fatty acids are classified and pro-inflammatory. For most people, a ratio of 1:2 Omega 3: Omega 6 is something to aim for. However there are estimates that the typical SAD diet (Standard American Diet) is consuming ratios of 1:15 or greater.
Truly sad, indeed.
In whole (read: real) foods, Omega-6’s do not present a real problem. Usually, if one is consuming whole, fresh foods, it is well balanced with Omega-3 counterparts. HOWEVER. Vegetable oils are often used and reheated in restaurants repeated times (think deep fryers, grills, pan searing) and they are used at high temperatures. This repeated heating will cause the formation of new compounds in the oil due to the joint action of high temperature and the presence of air and moisture.
Most restaurants do not throw out their oil after each use. Rather , they just top it up, and continue to use old, rancid oil underneath.
Whenever you can, (other than the obvious make your own food), ask for your meal to be prepared in olive oil or coconut oil.
If you are a home cook, go in your pantry and throw these oils out immediately:
- Canola Oil
- Corn Oil
- Soybean Oil
- “Vegetable” Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
Vegetable oils, being unstable polyunsaturated fats (remember the spaces for the O’s to bind) are super unstable, causing inflammation at the cellular level.
Just like that slightly off, volatile family member you try to ignore on Facebook, you give these oils any oxygen at all, and they will go off on you and cause damage and destruction everywhere.
Inflammation, and the damage that ensues has been linked to almost every chronic degenerative disease on the planet including Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Non alcoholic fatty liver disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Cancer, Metabolic syndrome,Cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis spinal degeneration, and autoimmune disorders. The list goes on .
Like a bouncer dragging out unruly, inebriated patrons, your body has to clean up the mess of Omega 6 oxidation. Omega 6’s leave a trail of damage, chaos, and entropy that needs to be cleaned up.
7. Your body has evolved to live off fat.
We have ample stores of fat on the body, and we can go for weeks on end using fat as food.
The body can store somewhere around 2000 calories worth of glycogen (stored sugar) at any given time. Compare that with anywhere between 50,000-100,000 of stored fat on our bodies.
Fat is the perfect source of energy – it breaks down into fatty acids and glycerin. The glycerin will be made into the glucose if the body needs it (usually for brain, muscle or liver function).
So you get stable clean burning energy, and all the glucose we need… with no insulin spike. All from fat.
The ability to acquire glucose from non-dietary means, and the dual systems of glycolysis and ketosis suggests that we very likely evolved from ancestors who predominantly ate a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet. In times when food was scant, we lived off, dare I say feasted, off our own body’s stored food, stored lipids.
That is what fasting is, really. Your body is still eating, but it feasts by accessing stored energy sources.
8. Fat helps you absorb essential vitamins
Fats are actually incredibly nutritious. Without it, you cannot absorb your fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Vitamin A plays a vital role in bone growth, reproduction, immune system health, and is essential for vision. It also helps the skin and mucous membranes repel bacteria and viruses more effectively.
Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, and more of a hormone. It is a big deal.
Among its many roles, it maintains the health of bones and teeth, supports the immune system, brain, and nervous system. It regulates insulin levels, aid in diabetes management, supports lung function and cardiovascular health.
The health benefits of vitamin E come from its antioxidant properties. Vitamin E is basically the bouncer cleaning up the mess at a club. Antioxidants remove free radicals — the unstable compounds that damage the cell structure. Immunity levels improve when vitamin E is consumed. It’s also a badass at keeping bone density high, and preservation of muscle mass.
Vitamin K is the injury vitamin. When you’re hurt, it will regulate blood clotting. It also is involved in maintaining bone density, and calcium levels.
So when we look at these fat soluble vitamins, there is a distinct pattern that emerges. All these vitamins are related to your nervous system, immune system, and skeletal integrity. Without the presence of fat, neural, immune and osseous (bone) structure and integrity are compromised.
You are not, as the old adage goes, what you eat.
You are, rather, what you absorb.
In this case, you are what you absorb in the presence of fat.
Building on this idea that there are fat-dependent nutrients, this would be a good time to point out there are no protein dependent or carbohydrate dependent vitamins. There are 2 kinds of vitamins: water soluble vitamins, or fat soluble vitamins.
One *could* argue then, if one wanted to, should one wanted to drive a point home…that the most important thing you consume along with enough water…is enough fat.
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