Why Do We Fear Fat?
I remember being a little girl and “ Sweating to the Oldies” with Richard Simmons, yes I know… Richard Simmons! My mom, was of course in on this workout! Both of us were jamming to this VHS in our little living room. We also stepped our aerobic game up with Denise Austin, who would always mention after her workout that we should eat some “healthy pretzels” because they are LOW- FAT. There are so many reasons as to why Americans fear fat, but I’m going to keep it simple and talk about the two main reasons why fats have been “demonized” and hopefully you can start to sort out the truth for yourself. In my opinion, the two big influences of the Low -Fat craze is bad science, and Im just going to say it… marketing.
Low- fat was all the rage in the late 80’s and 90’s. Americans were becoming unhealthier and fatter. The answer to this problem was to put Americans on a low- fat diet because of BAD science that was done in the 70’s by a scientist named Ancel Keys. Americans adopted these food guidelines that emphasized a diet high in carbohydrates and very low in fat. Ancel Keys’ flawed and biased science led people to believe that a diet high in saturated fats would cause cardiovascular heart disease, and if people didn’t want to put themselves at risk for heart disease they should follow a low -fat diet. They replaced animal fats with vegetable oils, which are very inflammatory , and then substituted fats for sugar. Well, not only did people buy into it, but so did many physicians, who advised patients to follow a low-fat diet; even diabetics have gotten this advice for many years. In an article written by Dr. Walter Willet of Harvard he stated, “ Farmers knew for actually years that you can make animals fat by feeding them grains, as long as you don’t let them move around too much, and it turns out that applies to humans too.” So taking out saturated fat and replacing it with cheap oils and sugar seems to have created more problems.
Along with bad science comes marketing. Big corporations need to make money by selling the latest and greatest products that appeal to people. Do you remember Snack-Well cookies? I mean come on… amazing, right? Let’s replace the fat with loads of sugar and inflammatory ingredients. Big corporations got in on all hype of “ low-fat” trying to appeal to the consumer, who thought they were eating healthy, but instead eating heavily processed “fake food”. As a consumer we were bombarded with low fat, reduced fat, light options in replace of actual real food. Although, fat is more energy dense than carbohydrates, which means there are 9 calories for every gram of fat compared to 4 for a carbohydrate, there are NO studies that show that saturated fat has any negative effects on cardiovascular health.
In fact, two largest NIH funded, multi-centered clinical trials The Women’s Health Initiative and Minnesota Coronary Survey, where saturated fats were replaced by unsaturated fats on 54,000 men and women concluded that saturated fats had NO effect on cardiovascular mortality or total mortality.
Fats are essential to life, hence that is why they are called essential fatty acids. We need fats for hormones, energy, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and healthy cell membranes. Time are changing with science and nutrition, and what we thought was once healthy is becoming apparent that it may not be so healthy. Also, nutrition is becoming more personalized instead of a “one size fits all” so maybe some like a low-fat diet and have an ideal weight and blood work, but others may greatly benefit from a higher fat and low carbohydrate diet. The important take away here is that fat is not our foe and is not to fear.