Fat is Back

Five years ago the general advice on diet was to eat a low fat diet both to lose weight and protect your heart. Last month a major review that has taken two years to complete and considered 16,000 studies, has concluded that low-carb, high fat diets are more effective for weight loss than the status quo advice to eat a low fat, low calorie diet, without cardiovascular risks.

In fact, the report concludes that a low carb diet is, if anything, good for your cardiovascular health, “…a greater increase in HDL cholesterol (“the good cholesterol”) without having any adverse affects on LDL cholesterol (“the bad cholesterol”)”. This applies to both the moderate low-carbohydrate intake of less than 40 percent of the total energy intake, as well as to the stricter low-carbohydrate diet, where carbohydrate intake is less than 20 percent of the total energy intake.

My GL diet falls in the category of a moderate low-carb diet. The rest is made up of fats, emphasising mono and polyunsaturated fats from fish more so than meat, and also vegetarian sources of protein. However, the low-carb, high fat diet that has become popular in Sweden emphasises more saturated fats from meat.

Fredrik Nyström, from the University of Linköping, who helped develop the guidance, recently told the local Swedish newspaper Corren that many of his colleagues had been sceptical about recommending a low carbohydrate, high fat diet. However, they changed their minds when they reviewed the scientific literature. “It feels great to have this scientific report and that the scepticism towards low carb diets among my colleagues has disappeared during the course of the work. When all recent scientific studies are lined up, the result is indisputable: our deep seated fear of fat is completely unfounded. You don’t get fat from fatty foods,” Nyström said.

If you are feeling troubled because, somewhere in your mind is the mantra that ‘fat makes you fat’ and ‘saturated fats are bad’, it is increasingly clear that it is sugar and carbs that more readily turn into body fat, and also into the fat, triglycerides, found in the arteries. So, it is true that fatty deposits are found in the arteries but they are more likely to have come from sugar than fat.

I don’t really emphasise fat in my diets but encourage some fats such as the ‘medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut, which is easier to burn than store, and mono-unsaturated fats in avocado and olive oil. Also, omega-3 fats in oily fish have always been a substantial part of my recommendations.

The more unsaturated a fat (mono being ‘one’ degree of unsaturation, poly being ‘many’) the more prone it is to damage at high temperature. Hence, you don’t want to deep fry foods in polyunsaturated fats. I ‘steam’ fry in a mono or saturated fat (butter, coconut butter or olive oil) by sautéing foods, then adding in a watery sauce (perhaps lemon juice, tamari and water) to finish the cooking process by steaming, which takes place at a lower temperature than frying, hence preserving nutrients and fats. I also get through a jar of tahini a month, but adding it to cooking at the very last minute so as not to damage the polyunsaturated fats.

However, burnt meat fat also generates toxic heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), so eating lots of fatty crispy meat may not be such...

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