I think one of the biggest misconception that people have these days in terms of food is all about dietary fats. The majority of people are simply obsessed with the idea that all the fats on the planet are bad and ugly little things, that want you dead as soon as possible. People heard the stories of how fat causes heart attacks, makes you obese and miserable. So the entire industry has been born based on this misconception – the industry of low fat products.
However, people of internet, beware! There is more into fats than you have ever thought. Fats could be also pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory. What does it mean?
- Pro-inflammatory fats are omega-6, which comes from food made with corn, cottonseed, soy, safflower and sunflower.
- Anti-inflammatory are omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, seafood, flaxseeds, grass-fed livestock! Who would have thought?
You will be safe and in the happy world of goodness if you munch from time to time on wild fish, sardines and grass-finished beef (fed grass up until they are killed). There is an explanation why grass-fed beef is good – there is some omega 3 in the grass, and since cows eat astronomic amount of grass and that’s all they really do, they manage to build up quite a bit of omega 3 inside them and then it is delivered to your plate. A bit cruel, but that’s food chain for you.
However, it’s not that omega-6 fats are really bad for you because they are pro-inflammatory. It just means that some people are over indulging with these fats and you need to chill! There is no need to eat all the soy products in the world, balance is the key, as usual.
Defence system in action
The whole idea behind pro-inflammatory food and the madness around it is very simple. Our bodies are very clever and when something nasty is trying to invade you, it starts the inflammation process trying to kill the intruder. It’s a defence system, when your white blood cells and cytokines are mobilised to be your little warriors and kill the bitches that are trying to create the chaos.
It works perfect for a short period of time, normal type of inflammation if a good thing, like when you have a cold and your nose swells up, or mosquito bits you and there is some swelling to stop the poison spreading, up until all the bad stuff is out of you and you are safe.
However, it can be potentially self-destructive if there is some inflammation around all the time. It basically kills your slowly from inside, because your body has all these warriors who have gone on a crazy mission and attacking everything they see. So it is a recipe for a slow and painful death via developing all sorts of fancy diseases, especially age related, that is heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia. Not only certain types of fat can trigger inflammation, it can also be my favourite sugar, some food allergies which you are ignoring, lack of exercises, stress, hidden infections.
So all this invaluable knowledge leads us to the same point as always – if you are not looking after your most precious vessel, that is your body, it will expire sooner that it was destined to. Going back to dietary fats, eating up to 30% of your calorie intake from food is perfectly okay. That’s right, 30%! But what about a common horror story that fats make you fat and cause heart disease?
Myths about fats and heart disease
The prevalence about heart disease had begun to rise slowly over the early 20th century. The move to reduce heart disease through dietary intervention started in 1960s and the nutritional holy war began with getting rid of all the saturated fat and replace it with alternatives. It led to raise in trans fats (think margarine), which is a guaranteed way to some sort of illness, all the processed food is very high in omega-6 and, of course, sugar. When fats goes, sugar comes in. Sugar is a good preservative and it makes everything taste nicer, so it’s a win-win for everyone, supermarkets, guidelines, your taste palate… Only bad for your health.
Yet something interesting has been coming up recently. It turns out that someone has been naughty during 60s and hasn’t exactly given us the full truth about fats. This article suggests that diet rich in omega-6 has killed more people with coronary disease, then normal diet with adequate amount of saturated fats. It suggests that all the guidance around the world to limit saturated fats and go on a crazy rave of consuming omega-6 oils might not be such a good idea if you plan to live long and healthy.
The idea behind why saturated fat is bad for you is because one of the export particle((I will talk at length about LDL, HDL, and cholesterol at a later date)) of dietary fat is low-density lipoproteins, or LDL. Dietary fat increases LDL and in large populations of adults, blood LDL levels correlate with risk of coronary heart disease. So the idea was simple, the more dietary you have, the more LDL you get, hence you get coronary disease.
But in case you haven’t learnt by now that nature is incredibly complicated machine, I am telling you right now that nothing is that simple. As it turns out, there are two types of LDL. One is called large buoyant LDL and the other small dense LDL. Large buoyant LDL floats in the bloodstream, it’s too big to get underneath the cells lining your blood vessels to start the artherosclerotic (artery wall thickening) process. About 80% of blood LDL is large buoyant and is thought to be neutral from a cardiovascular point.
Wow, that’s some rebellious news right here.
On the other hand, small dense LDL doesn’t float, it just sinks. It’s small enough to her under the blood vessel cells and once they have enough buddies in your arteries, they call it a day and start making atherosclerotic plaques like there is no tomorrow.
However, the most shocking news is only about to be revealed.
Dietary fats raises LDL, but it’s the large buoyant kind. The small dense variation is raised by carbohydrates!((P.W. Siri-Tarino et al., “Saturated Fat, Carbohydrate, and Cardiovascular Disease,”Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 91 (2010):502-9.)) Boom! More interestingly, basic google research shows that even very conventional and conservative NHS talks about a recent study that the link between saturated fat and heart disease is not particularly proven.
Seven types of fats
Dietary fat isn’t one entity, there are seven fats which can be divided into the following categories, in descending order of their value to us:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: primary source is wild fish, but flaxseed oil and hemp oil has some as well, but different type.((Check later for a discussion about omega-3 fats and where to get them))
- Monounsaturates: primary source is olive oil. The more monounsaturates you eat in your diet, the better!
- Polyunsaturates: primary source is mainly vegetable oils, like corn oil, safflower oil, etc
- Saturated fatty acids: primary source is milk and dairy products, but also grass-fed animal meats
- Medium-chain triglycerides: primary source is coconut oil and palm kernel oil
- Omega-6 fatty acids: primary source is farm-raised animals and fish, fed on corn and soy
- Trans fat (partially hydrogenated oils): primary source is processed food, it’s synthetic and we can’t really digest it, because our bodies do not recognise it and liver can’t chop these fats into something that can be digested, so they are sent straight to fat cells for desperate times.
Basically, over the years we got it all wrong again. Due to convenience and some misinformation from the government, we went on a rave of eating low-fat highly processed food, which is packed with bad oils that are making as ill. Since we were told to go for low-fat alternatives, instead of eating whole food as it’s made by nature, obesity has spiked more than ever.
Clearly the guidance is wrong and not working, if 26% of both men and women were classified as obese in 2010 in England and 42% of women and 32% of men are classified as overweight. That’s not even mentioning three boys out of 10 boys or girls (aged 2 to 15) are classified as obese or overweight. Three out of ten! Yet they managed to become overweight or obese in such a short period of time since their arrival on this planet.
Interesting point has been made while I was looking into this subject that when you eat big animals, they had quite a bit of time to grow and gather significant amount of contaminants in their fat cells from the environment. So if you eat on the lower scale of a food chain (think chickens as opposed to cows, for example), or smaller animals, then you have a bigger chance of consuming less toxins as they didn’t have a chance to have a long life and stuff their faces with all the bad and harmful things. Very logical indeed, hence I suggest this theory has a chance to live and thrive.
On the other hand, if you over 65, then your diet should differentiate from your diet when you were in your brave 20s, 30s, 40s. Higher saturated fat was associated with worsening cognitive functions in the study of saturated fats intake in people over 65. That’s quite a worrisome statistics and it wasn’t some random 1 year study, it was 5 years study, which adds some credibility to it. Having said that, there are so many things that happens to you after 65, that it deserves a separate article.
After 65 we possess hardly any usefulness for mother nature (kids are all grown ups, women can’t make any more babies, men have been killing themselves slowly for 6 decades by eating rubbish and stress, etc) that she is on the mission to kill us as quickly as possible as we just become biological waste, no matter how sad that sounds. So we have to fight back!
Finally, let me repeat myself in case someone still has not got the message.
The obesity in the world hasn’t rocketed because everyone has been eating fats all day long. If you are going to eat avocado (23g of fat per average avocado) all day long, you won’t get obese. The obesity has rocketed ever since we were told to eat low-fat products, which caring and loving food companies has made into a fat-making bomb – removed fats, but added tonnes of sugar in it to enhance the flavour and started making trans fat, which is the worst out of all evil. We are surrounded by high refined carbs, and just processed food in general, which is loaded with hydrogenated fats and omega-6 oils, which we are consuming in excess that leads to diseases due to constant inflammation.
Today we eat the furthest away from nature than we have ever done and we are paying the price.