Through my adult life I have seen so many diets come and go. The F-Plan, Cabbage soup, Atkins - but none have been as persistent as the idea that saturated fats are bad for us. This week, our Guest Blogger is retired Doctor, Jane Durston who now works as an Independent Nutritional Therapist. In this article, she explains how the evidence for low fat, High Carb diets has been debunked.
Many moons ago there was a man called Ancel Keys, a physiologist who was interested in nutrition and health. He undertook several landmark research projects in nutrition and probably the most famous was the Seven Counties Study which ran for over 25 years
The Seven Counties study objective was to explore in detail the associations of diet and other risk factors”. It was a huge piece of research which you can read here . The thing to notice is that the other risk factors were mentioned and that associations not causation was mentioned
It was a huge piece of research. The result was that there was an association made that eating saturated fat caused heart disease. Other possible associations, like smoking were ignored. Based on this, recommendations were made in the US and UK that we should cut down on saturated fats from animals and eat more polyunsaturated fats from seed oils, margarine, and the like. The problem with this is that association is not causation
It was the start of the low fat food revolution! Low fat foods appeared in our supermarkets in ever increasing numbers to the extent that now we even have low fat Greek yoghurt! Greek yoghurt was never meant to be low fat. We were encouraged to eat more carbohydrates and snack on carbohydrates to keep us feeling full and energised. The Eat Well plate or a variation was produced by various countries which depicted how much carb should be on your plate. We went from a society that ate 3 meals a day to grazers, constantly eating to feel satiated and keep our energy up.
Health improvements were expected but what was noticed in the 1990’s was an increase in obesity and warning bells started to ring. The problem then was that no one thought about the change in diet that had gone on. We were happily eating increasing amounts of fast, processed foods, more seed oils, more carbohydrates especially refined carbohydrates. Low fat foods often contained sugar to make them taste good (which fats do naturally), or they contain sweeteners that drive our desire for sugar. We were hooked on sugar and those that love a conspiracy theory will say its all down to the food industry , in fact you might like to look at this article which shows how the truth about sugar was hidden at the expense of demonising saturated fat.
This obesity epidemic has come with a huge toll on our health- type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and now increased morbidity and mortality with COVID-19.
From a personal point of view, I have Type 1 diabetes which puts me at increased heart disease as well as a host of other potential complications. When I was diagnosed, I was told to eat lots of carbohydrates, even to have chocolate before I exercise as a treat. What happened? I put on weight and my control deteriorated. No matter what I did I was on a roller coaster of eating all the time. So, I started investigating different ways of eating and the evidence for them and found Low Carb (carbohydrate) eating.
It’s not new, remember the Atkins Diet? This was a diet based on alternating protein only days and protein/vegetable days. People lost weight and I did too, but it fell into disrepute and I was persuaded to give up for fears that it would raise cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease.
Support has been gathering and over the last few years “Keto” or the ketogenic diet has gained favour. In a keto or low carb diet all processed foods are excluded so it is very much a whole food diet. Carbs are kept to a low level- it can be as low as 12grams /day depending on what you want to achieve. Instead of plates piled high with pasta, rice or potato you eat meat, fish, dairy and vegetables to keep you satiated. Saturated fat is consumed in the meat and cooking and it leads to a feeling a fullness and far less hunger.
I follow a low carb lifestyle – I prefer this to “diet” as it’s how I want to eat not a time limited event that has to be endured. I’m not ultra-low carb as I get results eating 30-40grams a day. I don’t feel hungry, I don’t get the blood glucose swings. I’m losing weight slowly and my control and blood picture is good.
I’m not worried about saturated fats and negative health effects because the evidence is now out there. Check out this Q&A from Dr Ken Berry if you would like to explore more, he also has the links below his video on the 3 big studies that revoke the evidence that saturated fat is bad for health. There is also this shorter video pulling a lot of this together
This is also a very good short video with a number of doctors talking about saturated fats.
Fats and in particular cholesterol, make up a good portion of every cell in our body and even more in the brain and nervous system. It is vital to produce hormones (yes including sex hormones) in our body. We are being asked to adopt a diet that isn’t suited to our body. High carb, particularly high processed carb drive insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction, namely disordered lipids, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. If the body needs glucose (which is does in very small amounts) it can release it in more than enough quantities from stores in the body. Better still it you can convert to a fat burner on a low carb diet and use fat from those stores on your belly and hips.
It’s time to put aside the constant search for a diet to fix your problems and adopt a lifestyle that results in health. I hope you find this informative and the links help to allay your fears, now I’m off to cook a nice big beef casserole with cabbage and leeks cooked in butter on the side. That’s Low Carb, Healthy Fat Lifestyle!
Jane can be reached for more information and advice via her website: www.yourlifebalancedoctor.com