Humor me. Be a good reader and just try to have an open mind for a minute or so. Ok, now what if I told you that the most commonly held health belief may not be true, what if I told you that fats can actually be healthy and ‘Saturated fats’ long blamed for the obesity epidemic, are not as bad as they are made to be.
“But aren’t fats supposed to clog your arteries and cause heart attack? Moreover don’t they cause obesity?” you must be thinking. But we would like to tell you that it is not as simple as that and there is an entire other side to fats that most of us are not aware of
Before you shake your head, I would like to present my case; it is a case many scientists and experts have tried to present too.
Study about Fats: Only Half truths are known
‘High fats are bad for the heart’ is the belief which gained popularity in 1953 after a book by Physiologist Ancel Keys, PhD presented a comparison between fat intake and heart disease in Japan, America, Canada, England, Australia and Italy. He found that Americans eating the most amount of fat had the maximum number of deaths by heart disease while Japanese eating the least amount of fat had least number of deaths, other countries also had deaths proportional to their fat intake. So high consumption was fat was the clearly assumed cause.
What is hardly known is that Keys only presented data from 6 countries while the data was available for 22 countries and on analysis of the entire data, there was no clear link between heart disease and fat intake, for example the mortality of Finland was 24 times that of Mexico though both these countries had similar consumption of fat. French cuisine has plenty of fats in the form of butter, eggs, liver, cream and cheese however heart disease is practically unheard of in France.
So there is no clear correlation between fat intake and heart disease.
Recent Studies that question assumptions!
You thought, High fat = Heart trouble
Research shows, Low Carbohydrate +High Fat diet = Healthy heart
Dr. Eric Westman of Duke University studied 120 overweight people some of whom were put on Atkins diet (which focuses on low carbohydrates and high consumption of fats) while some were put on AHA’s (American Heart Association) Step one diet ( low fat diet). Those on Atkins diet restricted the carbohydrate intake to 20 grams a day while 60% of their calories came from fats.
He found that after 6 months, those on Atkins diet lost 31 pounds on average while low fat group lost 20 pounds. Further the total cholesterol levels fell in both the groups. Also, the HDL or the good cholesterol levels increased by 11% in those on Atkins diet while, the low fat diet group had no change in HDL levels. Triglycerides, which increase the risk of heart disease, dropped by 49% in those with Atkins diet while those on Low fat had only a 22% drop.
A word of Caution for all those who are ready to try the Atkins diet now, the study further revealed that one year into the diet their weight loss was similar to a low fat diet; there are also concerns about the high amount of fat which indirectly affects the heart.
Also, a 20 year old study by doctoral student Tom Halton and Professor Dr. Frank Hu of Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, found that it is not just low carbohydrate or low fat that determines the risk for heart but type of fat or carbohydrate that matters. They found that refined carbohydrates that rapidly elevate blood sugar levels increased the risk of heart disease while vegetable fat was associated with lower risk of heart disease.
More about Saturated Oil and Heart:
According Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon in Truth about
According to Mary Eing, PhD and Sally Fallon in 'Truth about Saturated Fats', Fats are generally present in the human body in form of triglycerides and though triglycerides have been linked to heart disease, all these triglycerides do not directly come from the food we eat. It is found that most of these are formed in the liver when there is excess of sugar. Excess consumption of foods like white bread, biscuits and products containing maida is also partly responsible for excessive triglycerides, in fact it is stated that low fat diet leads to higher amount of cholesterol in blood stream as it signals the liver to produce triglycerides to make up for the deficiency, thus increasing the risk of heart attacks.
Good Sources of Saturated fats: Dark chocolate, Coconut oil, Eggs, Butter, Salmon, Cashews and Soya oil.
So, we saw low fat is not necessarily good for heart and avoiding processed carbohydrates and having more of vegetable oil helps in reducing the risk.
Other Benefits of Saturated Fats:
- While you are all hooked to diets and regimens that focused on losing fat, did you know that fats are essential to life? It is said that 50% of our cell membranes are made from saturated fats which help maintain the integrity of the cells and prevents stiffness in cell membranes.
- Short chain fatty acids as well medium chain fatty acids are very useful in fighting harmful micro organisms thus improving immunity.
- Saturated fat plays important role in our bone health. For adequate Vitamin D to be absorbed at least 50% of the fats in the body should come from saturated fats.
- Saturated fats are also needed for the proper utilization of fatty acids. It is found that omega 3 fatty acid is better absorbed in the presence of saturated fats.
What about Ghee?
Ghee or clarified butter has a lot of significance for us Indians. Ghee in fact is almost a metaphor for mother’s love; we all remember how much our mothers used to goad us to eat more ghee ka ladoos or pour ghee over our rice. For long ghee is getting negative reviews due to the fact that it is high in fats, but as we have seen earlier, being high on fats is not necessarily a bad thing.
Ghee is made from short chain fatty acids that are known to be easy to digest and are easily converted into energy and have strong microbial properties improving health.
The other known benefits of ghee are it can be eaten by those who are lactose intolerant giving them the vitamins in milk without lactose, ghee is also said to be good for memory hence growing children are advised to eat ghee, it also gives a tasty flavor to food and is a good cooking medium with high smoking point which means it can be cooked in high temprature without emitting smokeRujuta Diwekar in her book, “Don’t lose your weight, lose your mind” recommends one teaspoon of ghee to be consumed every day to get our quota of saturated fats.
How about Coconut oil?
Coconut oil, the native oil of South India is also gaining a bad rep for containing high levels of saturated fats but coconut oil is used by many of the coastal nations for generations without incidence of heart disease. This is because coconut oil also contains plenty of benefits.
Coconut oil contains majority of saturated oil but they are medium chain fatty acids strengthening our immune system and fighting viruses. Coconut oil contains 50% of lauric acid which is converted into Monolaurans, a substance which mother’s milk also contains and which prevents heart problems including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Coconut oil is also easy to digest, improves immunity, healing, it also helps weight loss since it is easily converted into energy. Coconut oil is also an excellent moisturizer when applied to skin.
So we now know that all Fats are not bad, saturated fats were long blamed to be the villains that they were not. Instead of blaming our unhealthy lifestyle and poor dietary habits, we blamed our health woes on Fats when they actually are very essential for our existence. So let’s blame the right villain this time (that is ourselves) and not forego the healthy ‘ghee’ for low fat but empty nutrient options!