Did the Low-Fat Craze Make Us Fatter?
By Brigitta Beer
Travel back in time with me for a moment.
Late 1980s, through the 1990s, and beyond when we were told fat was bad.
We all reduced our fat intake, ditched the butter for margarine, switched to low fat salad dressings and ice cream, turkey bacon replaced the real thing, and a popular red licorice was advertised as the low-fat snack, along with many cookie and cracker options.
I remember going through McDonald’s drive through on my commute to work for a coffee and two low fat muffins for breakfast.
Yes, two. They were low fat. All good, right?
If we were to eat any fat, then vegetable oils and margarine were referred to as “heart healthy” oils to replace butter and other artery clogging saturated fats. They were supposed to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, promote weight loss and improve overall health.
How’d that work out for us?
Well, let’s look at a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in March 2014.
“Between 1985 and 2011, the prevalence of adult obesity in Canada increased from 6.1 per cent to 18.3.. Furthermore, since 1985, the prevalence of obesity in classes I, II and III increased from 5.1 per cent to 13.1 per cent, from 0.8 per cent to 3.6 per cent, and from 0.3 per cent to 1.6per cent respectively.
Taking into account regional variations, we predict that, by 2019, the prevalence of obesity in classes I, II and III will increase to 14.8 per cent, 4.4 per cent and two per cent, respectively, and that half of the Canadian provinces will have more overweight or obese adults than normal-weight adults.”
Concerning stats, right?
Something had to replace the fat in our diet, and that something was various forms of carbohydrates - mostly refined grains and sugar, not vegetables and fruits.
Although fat is higher calorie gram for gram than carbohydrate, our calorie consumption didn’t decrease, it increased.
The low fat, high carb diet (especially refined carbohydrates) doesn’t satiate, doesn’t nourish adequately, and sends us on a roller coaster ride of blood glucose and insulin, leading to hunger between meals and making it difficult to control caloric intake.
As well, all this excess glucose is then converted into a form of saturated fat called palmitic acid which binds in groups of three to form triglycerides.
Did you get that?
Triglycerides are formed from excess glucose, circulate through the blood as a form of energy, and stored as fat in the body when not needed for energy.
Of course with our constant supply (and excess) of food, especially carbs, we don’t need to tap into these circulating triglycerides as a fuel source, so they pile up in our blood, liver, and fat cells.
High triglyceride levels are associated with health concerns such as cardiovascular disease, liver disease, obesity, and hormonal imbalances.
Not only did the obesity rate almost triple, but according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s (CIHI) report, International Comparisons: A Focus on Diabetes, more than three million Canadians have type II diabetes and another 5.7 million Canadians have pre-diabetes – with hope that they can still turn it around.
Again, the low fat, high carb recommendations didn’t exactly help us here either.
We need to overcome our fear of fats, upgrade unhealthy, refined vegetable oil and their products to natural saturated and monounsaturated fats, and address our “overcarbsumption”.
So what should we eat?
What do we cut out or reduce?
Here are just a few suggestions:
- Let’s start by eating a large variety of food in its most natural state – unprocessed, unrefined, real food.
- Cut out excess sugar and don’t rely on high carbohydrate based foods to fuel our day.
- Add a source of protein and healthy fat to each meal. Source grass feed meats and eggs when possible and affordable, and for heaven’s sake eat the egg yolk too!
- Fill one-half your plate with a variety of non-starchy vegetables and add some protein and fats before loading up on starches.
- Upgrade your vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean, sunflower, etc), margarine, mayonnaise, and dressings to olive, avocado, and coconut oil and organic butter and cream.
- Include nuts and seeds, but limit to a handful per day.
- Read labels! Sugar and vegetable oils are hidden in almost everything. That “healthy” non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt? Between 18 and 24 grams of sugar per serving. Olive oil mayonnaise? Yes, it has some olive oil, but also soybean and canola oil. Remember, most processed foods are made with unhealthy, refined vegetable oils and added sugars, but of course my first point was reducing/removing processed foods.
I’ve posted a super simple (and healthy!) mayonnaise recipe on my Are We Fatter? blog post at www.foodeffects.ca. You’ll whip this up faster than you can find the condiments aisle in the grocery store.
If you want more information or are looking to work with someone to improve your health through nutrition please contact me at [email protected].
Brigitta Beer is a holistic nutritionist based in Kelowna. After healing her own body and mind through real food, she is excited to spread the message of food freedom and achieving improved physical, emotional, and mental health through good nutrition.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.