“The Greenland Inuit population, which has been studied extensively, used to consume a diet of 70 percent fat, an extraordinary amount of fat by modern standards, yet were thin and free of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Why? They ate polar bear, seal, and arctic char, whale, walrus, and other easy-to-find foods (if you live at the North Pole!). The fat in these foods was predominantly omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats.
The Inuit were a fit race, well adapted to its environment-until recently. In modern times the Inuit shifted from a diet high in good fat to a diet low in fat and high in processed carbohydrates. For reasons you will learn more about in the next chapter, this made the population incredibly obese in very little time.” from Ultra-Metabolism, Hyman, Mark
Types of Fats
Much of the confusion around fats exists because there are many different kinds of fats. Some are essential to consume in our diets and some, even without eating fat, our bodies make on their own. Food scientists have made an entirely new fat that nature has never seen, called trans-fat or hydrogenated fats.
Fats basic metabolic roles in our bodies are as structural components of cell membranes, a source of insulation to moderate our bodies temperatures, and a means of energy storage. Dr Mark Hyman, author of Ultra-Metabolism, writes that “…eat the right fats, and you turn up your fat-burning capacity; eat the wrong fats, and you switch on genes that make you gain weight and slow down your metabolism. The type of fat you eat is more important than the amount of fat you eat.”
A major concern when talking about dietary fats is heart health. We have all heard for decades now that high-fat diets cause heart disease by increasing our cholesterol and clogging our arteries. However, the American Heart Association’s statistics show that between 1979 and 1996, medical procedures for heart disease INCREASED from 1.2 million to 5.4 million a year. Heart disease deaths may be decreasing, but the number of people acquiring heart disease is not. The medical field is now simply better at treating heart disease once it exists.
I would like to quote a few paragraphs from Dr Hyman’s book where he looks at “the Fat Myth”:
“An example that is almost too absurd to believe is the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which involved over 300,000 women studied over a ten-year period, to find out if there were any correlation between dietary fat and heart disease. The U.S. government spent nearly $100 million on the study, hoping to prove that dietary fat was indeed a killer.
The study ultimately found that there was no connection between the two, but the government refused to change public policy, which had been built on the idea that a low-fat diet was a healthier way to eat years before the study was completed. Dr. Willett, the lead researcher and spokesperson for the project, even publicly decried the government’s reaction as “scandalous,” but there was no effect. Public policy for a low-fat diet is still on the books to this day, even though it was adopted without a shred of scientific evidence.”
The last thirty years has seen Americans trying to reduce fat in their diets and the result? Obesity has TRIPLED since 1960, and a full two-thirds of our population is overweight. American children are experiencing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Because of these diseases for the first time in history, human life expectancy is declining. Children of this generation will live sicker and die younger than their parents.
Essential fatty acids are the building blocks of fats. They are essential because we need them to live, yet our bodies cannot manufacture them. We must consume them in our diet. The two essential fatty acids are omega-3 (alpha linolenic acid or ALA) and omega-6 (linoleic acid).
Are found in flax seeds, phytoplankton/microalgae, cold water fish, grass-fed meats and leafy green vegetables. These oils are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s). Vegan diets are lacking in EPA & DHA components of the omega 3’s. The major anti-inflammatory benefit is from their impairment of the inflammatory cascade that occurs from consumption of excess omega 6 fats.
These are the specific fatty acids found in Omega 3’s:
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)-found in abundance in flax seeds, however it does not easily convert in the body to EPA (only 5%) & DHA (may not convert at all). The majority of research conducted on Omega-3’s has been done with fish oil and has focused on the benefits of EPA and DHA.
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)-also reduces inflammation. The cell membrane benefits of EPA are reduced by too much omega 6 consumption. EPA may be helpful in treating allergies.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is essential for neural cell function. Animal studies show deficiency of DHA causes memory deficits and a reduction in cell size in the hippocampus of the brain. DHA levels are reduced by alcohol consumption. DHA is also converted into several anti-inflammatory metabolites.
Are found in vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn and safflower, as well as borage, black currant and evening primrose oils. Although the American diet is high in omega-6 oils from processed and fried foods, these oils are highly refined and do not provide quality omega-6 fatty acids. For example, corn oils, rapidly activate NF-kappaB, thus promoting tumor development, atherosclerosis, and increase of pro-inflammatory mediators.
The specific beneficial fatty acid found in Omega 6‘s is:
GLA (gamma linolenic acid) (metabolized into DGLA) it is important for positive hormonal balance and has been found to promote healthy menstrual cycles and menopause. It also inhibits inflammation and impairs estrogen receptor function, there by, being beneficial in estrogen sensitive cancer treatment.
Are present mainly in extra virgin olive oil, hazelnut oil and to a lessor amount in flax and borage oils. The body can also make omega 9 out of EPA and DHA present in the Omega 3 fats. The specific fatty acid found in Omega 9‘s is Oleic Acid.
The proper ratio for Omega-3 to Omega-6 is about 2:1 with higher ratios being more beneficial. Research shows that the higher the ratio between Omega-3 to Omega-6 can decrease disease and mortality by as much as 70%!
We can categorize fats into three basic groups:
HEALTHY FATS These A-group fats turn on the genes in your DNA that increase your metabolism, help you burn fat more quickly, and reduce inflammation. They support endocrine, cardiovascular and immune health.
Omega-3 fats (wild salmon, herring, sardines, fresh anchovies, micro-algae & plankton, green leafy vegetables, grass-fed meats, flax, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp and chia seeds) Do not use high heat with these fats and keep them refrigerated.
Monounsaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil, hazelnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, avocado, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds). Also keep refrigerated.
some Saturated fats (coconut oil, palm fruit oil, macadamia nut oil, eggs, butter, raw milk dairy, animal fats from pastured animals)
Unrefined Omega-6 Polyunsaturated fats (grape seed, sunflower, safflower, walnut, sesame, as well as, borage, black currant and evening primrose oils). Read the labels most of these on the store shelf are refined, look for the UNREFINED oils. Be sure to keep them refrigerated.
UNHEALTHY FATS These fats are unhealthy because they are difficult to digest, increase inflammation and can be contaminated by pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics, and in the case of corn is genetically modified.
Refined Omega-6 Polyunsaturated fats (corn, canola, soy, safflower, and “vegetable oil”) “The new soft margarines or tub spreads, while lower in hydrogenated fats, are still produced from rancid vegetable oils and contain many additives.” Here is an article discussing why I don’t recommend canola oil.
Eating sugar along with Omega-6 fats causes an insulin spike which inhibits PG1 (anti-inflammatory) and increases PG2 (pro-inflammatory) prostagladins.
some Saturated fats (feedlot-raised beef contains 500% more saturated fat than grass-fed beef usually along with antibiotics and growth hormones)
DANGEROUS FATS these are “trans-fats”, or partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated oils found in margarine, shortening and all processed foods.
Trans-Fats, Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Fats & Oils. Studies suggest these fats disrupt our metabolism, create weight gain, and increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These fake fats have no place in the diet of any known species on the planet. Labeling laws require products to only list trans-fats as ingredients when above 500mg/serving, so if serving size seems ridiculously low, it’s probably hiding trans fat content.
3. Eat Fat Lose Fat, Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon
4. Ultra-Metabolism, Mark Hyman, MD
5. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Weston A. Price authour, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation editor
6. Parts 1-8 “Why We Believe What We Believe About Fats and Why Its Wrong” with Annette Presley, RD, LD, by Hawthorn University