Don’t “Defriend” Fat

Don’t “Defriend” Fat
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

 

In the 70’s, we banned fat. In the 90’s we banned carbs – and neither really worked to improve our lifestyles and relationships with food. As new research comes out regarding the best ways to eat for a healthy body, heart health, brain health – you name it – our food industry adjusts accordingly to provide these foods for us to eat. But what if we simply had a neutral relationship with food and a positive relationship with eating? It seems we would be more likely to eat exactly what our bodies need and avoid the foods our bodies can do without.

Photo Credit: misterbisson via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: misterbisson via Compfight cc

Recently, an article was published in TIME Magazine with the title “EAT BUTTER.” There’s something that will catch the reader’s eye, but what is behind the cover? For over 40 years, Americans have been on a low-fat craze because it was believed to be the best way to preserve our hearts from heart disease. Turns out, the research was misleading and the way we interpreted the research was not any better for our bodies. According to Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, ideally we thought “that if people reduced saturated fat, they would replace it with healthy fruits and vegetables.” What really happened was people replaced those calories with processed foods and snacks like low-fat cookies, cakes, crackers and more.

We started regaling fats as “good” fats and “bad” fats, and we did the same with cholesterol. Giving these positive and negative titles to foods can lead to overeating and or food avoidance. It is important to understand that fats, like all foods, are neutral. They are essential in our diet for brain health, blood sugar regulation and for keeping us feeling full. Carbs (sugar, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy) are also essential in our diet for energy, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Avoiding one or the other can lead to undernourishment and side effects like fatigue and mood swings.

Photo Credit: Pauline Mak via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Pauline Mak via Compfight cc

In 1996, Dr. Walter Willet published research concluding that removing fat from our diets and replacing that void with carbohydrates does not reduce our risk for heart disease. It just so happens that around the time this study was published, the Mediterranean diet started gaining popularity. All fats are important. All carbs are important. All proteins are important. There is actually research supporting Mediterranean diets with 40% fat. But the fat source is mainly monounsaturated fats. Remember, when you eat fats like dairy, oils, nuts, and so on, you are typically getting a bit of saturated and unsaturated fat. So while the jury is still out, stick with moderation and try to eat more wholesome nutrition the majority of the time.

Ultimately, the TIME article is not saying Americans should drop everything and start eating butter or loading up on saturated fat. The message seems to be implying that we should no longer be afraid of fat, and we can start incorporating all types of fat in moderation. It’s time we changed our thinking from exile to acceptance. Allowing ourselves to have access to all foods will decrease the desire to resist any particular nutrient or food group. We will all be healthier for it.

Happy Heart Health Month – Part One

OMGoodness there are so many mixed messages about heart health. Read on tho make sense of sugar and saturated fat as it pertains to our heart health. Lets prevent Cardiovascular Disease (aka CVD).

Q) There are experts who are now saying that the evidence between saturated fat and CVD may have been biased because research didn’t take into account the sugar content of the diet.  Is sugar the real culprit?

Added sugar is associated with increased TG levels and increased LDL cholesterol (hyperlipidemia being a risk factor for CVD). However, there is an inverse relationship with increased intake of healthier carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, meaning the more you eat these foods, the less likely you are to increase your risk for CVD.  Saturated fat remains a part of the picture. Now the question is which type of SFA may be more closely associated with the increased cholesterol-raising effect of cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors. More research is needed to clarify. Most importantly focus on including fruits, veggies and whole grains and limit added sugars.

 

Q) What is the role of saturated fat in CVD risk?

Saturated fat is associated with CVD. Studies show an increase in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol after eating a meal high in saturated fat. However, recent studies are examining the different roles of the specific types of saturated fats: Short chain, medium chain and long chain SFA.  This means continue to minimize your intake of saturated fat like the visual lard on a steak until more research is available. A simple guide: choose products with < 2 grams/ saturated fat per serving. Rather focus on including monounsaturated fats like olives and avocado. 

 

Q)  There are studies that show total blood cholesterol is not a reliable indicator of CVD. If it’s not, what are the indicators then?

Total Cholesterol is not a biomarker of CVD rather one’s ratio of Total Cholesterol to HDL ratio.  HDL also known as high density lipoprotein is the good cholesterol (h for helper) and LDL, low density lipoprotein (l for want less of) the bad cholesterol. The greater your HDL and the lower your LDL, the more favorable your cholesterol profile will be and the decreased chance of cardiovascular disease. Studies indicate a Low HDL, High LDL and High TG are associated with risk for CVD. You must ask the doctor for your cholesterol breakdown and the ratio with a goal < 5.  Always ask for a copy of your blood work.

 

Q)  If a higher sugar intake may be dangerous, why aren’t  triglycerides (blood levels) more important when assessing the risk of CVD, since this marker has a good correlation with simple carbohydrates intake?

TG’s are a good indicator of risk for CVD and it should be included in the lipid profile to assess for CVD risk. However, the ATP III report issued by the NIH, encourages using TG’s as a marker for other lipid and nonlipid risk factors that ultimately raise the risk for CVD. Ask Your medical doctor for your TG level and aim for < 150 mg/dl. 

 

Check back for Happy Heart Health Month Part 2 or like Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services on Facebook to get weekly nutrition updates.

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