It’s Got Fat, so it Must be Fattening….UGH!!!

Boy did the 90’s screw us up.  The USDA’s disease-causing pyramid let to some pretty ingrained misinformation about what leads to weight gain.

The emphasis on eating grains without any education about refined versus whole grains and using fats and oils sparingly was a move in the wrong direction.  We replaced healthy oils like olive oil in foods and replaced them with refined carbohydrates like enriched wheat flour and high fructose corn syrup.  There are few things you can do to sabotage your health more than follow this pattern.

Many of the more popular diet programs gave high emphasis on eating foods low in fat.  Salad dressings with olive oil cost more points than high fructose corn syrup varieties.  Low quality, highly processed frozen entrees have less points than unprocessed ones based merely on fat content.  This is never something I would recommend.

Because of this, many of us, both old and young, have the misconception that eating fat will cause us to become fat.  While this may be true for low quality fats like the saturated fat in corn-fed beef and fast foods as well as hydrogenated oils in the same fast foods as well as processed snacks like chips.

Just in case you still have any lingering doubts in the back of your mind that just maybe the USDA Dietary Pyramid should not have been scrapped, take a look at this particular article.  In it, researchers overfed 39 participants with muffins that contained either saturated fatty acids (SFA-palm oil) or polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids (PUFA-sunflower).  Liver fat, visceral adipose tissue (VAT-the bad kind), abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT), total adipose tissue, pancreatic fat, and lean tissue (the good stuff) were all measured by MRI.  Here’s what they found:

  • Both groups gained similar weight.
  • The SFAs, however, led to large increases in liver fat compared as well as a twofold larger increase in VAT (the bad stuff).
  • On the other hand, the PUFAs led to a nearly threefold larger INCREASE in lean tissue (the good stuff).

Let me get this straight.  Adding fat actually led to an increase in lean body mass??  How can that be possible when fat = fattening??

It actually make sense since healthy fat actually improves the cell membrane and allows the cells of our body to communicate better with one another.  When this happens, hormones like insulin work more effectively at controlling blood sugar and keeping body weight under control.

That being said, I do have to say that sunflower oil would not have been my preferred choice for healthy fats.  I prefer to keep omega 6 intake lower and omega 3 intakes higher.  And my preferred source of omega 6 fatty acids would be nuts (raw—NO added oils) and olive oil.

Although, it IS tempting to run out and buy a large bag of high-oleic sunflower oil salt and vinegar potato chips and finish them in a single sitting and damn the 800 calories….

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.