Nature Doesn't Make Bad Fats
Fat and protein were the backbone of our Paleolithic ancestor’s diets. From studying their remains we know that they were muscular with a very lean body composition. We also know that they had no incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; the three biggest killers in America today, which didn’t begin popping up until the invention of processed sugars and hydrogenated fats (trans-fat) only a few centuries ago. That’s right, humans lived for thousands of years eating diets high in fat (mostly animal fat) while maintaining more muscle mass and leaner bodies than we do today without any of the chronic diseases that are on epidemic levels today.
The fact is that natural fat does not make you fat. Eating natural fat regularly as your primary fuel source rather than carbohydrates actually makes your body more efficient at burning fat. Unlike carbohydrates, fat provides energy without spiking blood sugar or insulin levels that are responsible for fat storage.
Saturated fats like those found in animal fat and coconut oil are responsible for maintaining cellular integrity everywhere in the body. Ideally, every cell membrane is made up of about 50% saturated fat. When you don’t get enough good fats your cells are not able to maintain the proper stiffness, which affects their ability to work properly. This affects every metabolic process including fat metabolism.
Your body needs not only fats, but saturated fats, to nourish your brain, heart, nerves, muscles, hormones and every single cell.
When I refer to natural fat I am referring to any fat found in nature free from any kind of processing. These include animal fat (see next disclaimer), natural oils (ie, coconut oil and olive oil), nuts, and fats found in some plants like avocado.
Anytime I refer to animal fat I am talking about the fat from animals that are grass-fed, humanely raised in organic pastures, and free of any hormones or antibiotics. I am NOT talking about animals raised under conventional farming practices. I consider organic grass-fed meat a completely different food than conventional meat and if you value your health you should too. Comparing these two kinds of meats are like comparing apples to oranges. I highly recommend watching the award-winning documentary Food, Inc. to educate yourself on the difference.
The Factors that REALLY Make you Fat
I’m starting this blog with the information you are probably most interested in and that you can most immediately apply to help yourself. Understanding the history behind the fat myth is important, but not necessary for weight loss, better performance, improved health and longevity.
- Arachidonic acid (AA), converted from Omega 6 fatty acids, makes fat cells divide thereby increasing the total number of fat cells. Stress, sleep deprivation and obesity generate more AA.
- Insulin tells your body to increase its number of fat cells.
- increase insulin levels,
- increase triglyceride production in the liver,
- trigger fat cells to start making more fat that from sugar in the blood stream that will then fill up the cells like a sponge saturating with water
- Glucocorticoids stimulate fat cell division. Our bodies make glucocorticoids all the time, but levels rise during stress and sleep deprivation.
- Unnatural, trans fats (vegetable oils) distort all cellular function to the point that it can kill cells.
In case you didn’t notice there is a trend: stress, sleep deprivation and sugar.
The History: Why do Americans think that fat is bad?
In 1958, Dr. Ancel Keys, father of the lipid hypothesis began a crusade on dietary fat that did more damage to American health than anything in our history. Armed with completely incorrect statistical evidence that showed a causal relationship between heart disease and saturated fat, Dr. Keys began a crusade that vilified saturated fat and began the “low-fat” diet craze that is still sweeping America today. It is important to understand the back-story because it explains why Americans generally accept the myth that eating fat makes you fat and that it is detrimental to your health.
Dr. Keys did laboratory experiments on rats as well as human experiments trying to link saturated fat to the rising rates of heart disease in America. What most people didn’t know then and still don’t know now, is that Dr. Keys didn’t use animal fat in any of his experimentation! Instead his subjects were fed margarine made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or trans-fat. Margarine contains saturated fat made during the hydrogenation process that also generates trans fat. Completely ignoring the presence of trans fat, Keys came to the utterly nonsensical conclusion that saturated fat caused heart disease. Making matters even worse, he equated the saturated fat from the vegetable oils he used in his studies to saturated fat found in animal fat. Thus is the genesis of the anti-saturated fat, anti-cholesterol myth.
From there it isn’t a big leap to get people to make the connection that dietary fat is stored as body fat. I’ll admit that it seems like a logical connection to make. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Numbers Don’t Lie: How has it all played out for Americans?
- More than one-third (34.7%) of US adults are obese. That is 72 million Americans. No state has an obesity rate less than 18% (Colorado).
- Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.
- In 2009, 2.4 million more Americans were obese than in 2007.
- In 1900 heart disease was rare and so was trans fat. By 1950, heart disease was killing more men than any other disease. By the year 2000, heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women. Natural fat consumption: down. Processed fat and sugar consumption: up. Heart disease: way up!
- In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
Statistics courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
America has a perception problem, not a dietary fat problem. Eating fat doesn't make you fat. Unfortunately, there are a lot of food companies that are spending a lot of money to make sure you don't find out the truth because they have a lot invested in the low-fat/non-fat diet fad that has become the American way.
Our taste buds love fat because it is our body's way of guiding us to the most nourishing food. Return to your ancestral roots and eat with your instincts. Enjoy a delicious ribeye steak cooked in Kerrygold butter from grass-fed cows. The menu change will improve your health and the way you look naked. You can also feel good knowing the extra money you spend on quality meat is more than negated by lower medical bills and better quality of life. Pay now or pay more later.