The MÖ Aesthetic Clinic

Chewing the Fat

Chewing the Fat

I need to start by clearing up one huge issue: Fat is not bad for you!

The low-fat diet craze that began in the late 1970’s was based on some flawed research. The original research implicated saturated fat as the cause of cardiovascular disease. It is now becoming recognized that the true culprit in the rise of cardiovascular disease in Western culture is carbohydrates (sugars and starches with fructose being the biggest culprit… remember what we discussed last about how fructose is metabolised by the liver to form triglycerides) and hyper caloric diets: where you consume more energy than you need.

Often this extra energy may well be in the form of fats, so while fat is not essentially bad for you, the way we abuse it is. This is the reason why the rate of heart disease has skyrocketed in the last three decades despite the fact that so many of us switched to low-fat salad dressing, pasta, and non-nutritive sweeteners. Chronic stress and inadequate sleep are also factors in the cardiovascular disease equation.

Not only is dietary fat not bad for you, it’s critical for your health.  You need to eat fat in order to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K (which between them affect every system in your body).  Fat is essential for cell construction, nerve function, digestion, and for the formation of the hormones that regulate everything from metabolism to circulation.  The membranes of every cell in your body are composed of fat molecules. Your brain is composed of more than 60% fat and cholesterol.Dietary deficiency in omega-3s has been linked to: dyslexia, violence, depression, anxiety, memory problems, Alzheimer’s disease, weight gain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, eczema, allergies, asthma, inflammatory diseases, arthritis, diabetes, auto-immune diseases and many others. 

But not all omega-3 fatty acids are created equal.  There are three forms:  ALA is found is flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and many other plant sources of polyunsaturated fats.  Your body mainly needs the other two forms (the difference is actually the length of the molecule, ALA is the shortest and DHA is the longest), DHA and EPA, which are found in fish, eggs, free-range poultry, pasture-raised/grass-fed meat, dairy from pasture-fed animals, and wild game.

So, what about omega-6 fatty acids? These are also polyunsaturated fats.  Many diet gurus are now labeling Linoleic acid (the dominant form of omega-6 found in grains, modern vegetable oils and meat from grain-fed animals) as the True Bad Fat.  But, there are no bad fats in nature.  The problem is the quantity of omega-6 fats that has insinuated itself into the modern human diet.  Ancestral diets consisted of a 1:1 to 1:2 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (in some areas, it may have been as high as 1:4). 

When grain was introduced into the human diet (and to the diets of grazing animals that we raise for food) approximately 10,000 years ago, we  increased the proportion of our dietary fat that is omega-6;  this has increased even more over the last 100 years, increasing exponentially with the introduction of canola oil into our diets in the mid 1980’s.  Modern Western diets contain anywhere from a 1:10 to a 1:40 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. This is NOT what nature intended for us.

There is a complex interplay between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your body, and both are essential for life.  Generally, omega-3 fatty acids contribute to anti-inflammatory processes, whereas omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory.  “Pro-inflammatory” sounds bad, but it is critical for wound healing and fighting infections. When you combine excessive omega-6 fatty acid consumption with the irritation to the gut lining caused by gluten and other lectins and excessive carbohydrate consumption (which is also pro-inflammatory), our bodies have constant low-level inflammation.  This sets the stage for many diseases, decreased ability to fight infection, and exaggerated allergies.

Coconut oil and palm oil/shortening (not to be confused with palm kernel oil) are also great sources of a type of saturated fat called Medium Chain Triglycerides, which has been shown to have a variety of beneficial effects in the body, including being outstanding for brain health. Cold-pressed vegetable oils (actually, fruit oils if you want to get technical) like olive oil, avocado oil, and macadamia nut oil are high in monounsaturated fats (especially the very heart-healthy Oleic acid) and tend to be rich in antioxidants too.

Basically, what this boils down to is:

1. Don’t be scared of fats, they alone are not the baddie!

2. It is the combination of fats and sugars that are the first problem

3. And the fact that we don’t get enough omega3 fatty acids that is the second problem.

4. We eat far too much omega6 fatty acids (vegetable oil, canola oil, rape seed oil) which puts out bodies into a permanent state of inflammation; an inflammation worsened by far too many sugars.

5. Also not mentioned above, but very important to remember: vegetable oils, when heated and held at high temperatures, become trans fats or free radicals which are very bad for us and should be avoided. (part of the reason why take-away foods and ready meals are really not a food of choice!)