Fat has gotten a bad reputation over the years. Since the early 1970s fat, specifically saturated fat, has been demonized as the root cause of obesity and heart disease, and low fat diets have been touted as the solution. Initially based on a single flawed study of seven countries, which correlated fat intake and heart disease, the “lipid hypothesis” was born.
After studying the eating habits of each country’s inhabitants the author of the study, Ancel Keys, observed a problem related to fat intake – the more saturated fat one ate, the greater the risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, for some strange reason, Keys omitted the results from the 15 other countries he studied that showed no increased in heart disease related to fat intake.
He also ignored the findings of a fellow researcher at the time, John Yudkin, which found an even greater relationship between sugar consumption in these countries and heart disease. History is also rife with examples of pre-industrial societies that consumed diets as high as 80% saturated fat in which there are almost zero cases of heart disease, yet supporters of the lipid hypothesis often ignore these well-established facts.
Despite the misinformation, the damage was already done. Keys made the cover of Time magazine and it was decreed that eating fat would clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. As a result, low fat diets have been prescribed by healthcare providers and recommended by diet gurus ever since as the epitome of “good” nutrition and the solution to society’s health woes.
So how did these low-fat recommendations work out for us? Over the last 40 years, heart disease has sky-rocketed and remains one of the top disease killers worldwide. Also, obesity rates have jumped to previously unheard of levels, despite the recommendations of the Canada Food Guide and increased consumption of low fat foods.
You may be surprised to hear that fat is not only good for you, but an essential nutrient that your body can’t live without. Fat is the main component of your brain and nervous system. It is the preferred energy source of your internal organs. Fat is essential for creating hormones. Also, good fat in heart healthy and can also help your body burn stored body fat for fuel.
In Part 2, we will cover the benefits of eating fat and how to incorporate more good fat into a healthy diet.