Fat Is Your Friend?

See no evil...
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With Spring upon us in less than a month, I thought it would be appropriate to briefly touch on a fairly simple way to lose weight.  But first, we must overcome a falsehood that has been drilled into your brain: fat is the enemy.  My hope is that by the end of this article, you will at least question the previous statement.
So.  Stop reading and take a moment to get out all your exclamations, protests, objections, tears, etc.  Reading this article with a clear mind will better help you absorb this information so take as much time as you need to set your prejudices aside.  Done?  Great.  Now, say out loud with conviction “Fat is NOT the enemy.”
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  Not all types of fat are beneficial.  I could (and will in the future) spend an entire blog series on the different types of fats, explaining which ones are health-promoting, what types of foods the various fats are found in, etc.  However, the purpose of this article is to plant a seed of truth in your mind that will hopefully grow into a lifestyle change.
When people adopt the view that “fat is bad”, what do they do when they want to lose weight?  Well, in America, the answer is obvious if you subscribe to any type of media: adopting a low-fat diet is the way to lose weight.
How many of you out there have had success with that highly marketed and advertised route?  I ask because low-fat diets tend to be high in sugar (you have to replace the calories with some other macronutrient so…sugar/carbohydrates it is) and what time has revealed is that high refined sugar intake leads to weight gain.
An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April 2003 interviewed pro-low-carb enthusiast Dr. Robert Atkins (yes, the Atkins Diet doc) and Colette Heimowitz (Director of education and research at Atkins Health & Medical Information Services), pro-low-fat enthusiast Dr. Dean Ornish (founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute) and an impartial third party Thomas Wadden, PhD (Professor of psychology and Director of the weight and eating disorders program at the University of Pennsylvania) to objectively compare the two diets1.  Even though people are able to lose weight by adhering to either diet, Dr. Wadden admitted that the low-fat diet is

 “just extremely hard for most people to adhere to. People have to be extremely vigilant if they’re going to adhere to a diet in which only about 10% of calories comes from fat…I think Ornish’s plan is unrealistic for most Americans trying to lose weight…”

Dr. Wadden did express health concerns about a low carb diet, but he acknowledged that “I don’t think we have sufficient evidence at this point; I think we need long-term studies to show what happens when you’re consuming a low carb, high-fat diet for a long period of time.”
What’s funny is that a month later, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (a highly reputable journal) found that people who ate a low carb diet lost more weight than people following a low-fat and calorie-restricted diet2!  Also, a study in 2004 found that “compared with a low-fat diet, a low-carbohydrate diet program had better participant retention and greater weight loss. During active weight loss, serum triglyceride levels decreased more and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level increased more with the low-carbohydrate diet than with the low-fat diet”3.  I could go on but I think you get the point.

So instead of getting frustrated trying to count calories, stocking up on low-fat (but high sugar) meals, or trying any other type of dieting fad, just stick to reducing the amount of carbohydrates you eat, specifically refined sugars.  And if you don’t believe the research, try it yourself for 3 months and see how you feel!  I’d love to hear about your experiences with different diets so feel free to leave a comment.

1. Stephenson, Joan. “Low-Carb, Low-Fat Diet Gurus Face Off”. Journal of the American Medical Association (2003) Vol 289: 14, 1767–1769.
2. Samaha, FF, Igbal, N, Seshadri, P, Chicano, KL, Daily, DA, McGrory, J, Williams, T, Williams, M, Gracely, EJ, Stern, L.  “A Low-Carbohydrate as Compared with a Low-Fat Diet in Severe Obesity”.  New England Journal of Medicine (2003) Vol 348: 2074-81.
3. Yancy Jr, WS, Olsen, MK, Guyton, JR, Bakst, RP, Westman, EC.  “A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat
Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial”.  Annals of Internal Medicine (2004) Vol 140: 769-777.

One Response to “Fat Is Your Friend?

  • Glad you addressed the low fat issue. It is still pushed by the media.

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