Healthy fats are a great source of energy for the body. They are, in fact, instrumental in weight management and metabolic function, nutrient and vitamin absorption, regulating and supporting immune and hormonal function and body temperature, gut function, neurotransmitter regulation. Not all fats are created equally and can have profoundly different effects on the body. A low-fat diet carries many risks: hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance that accompanies diabetes and cancer, leaky gut, and a variety of cognitive disorders.
According to David Perlmutter, M.D. ” For the greater part of the past 2.6 million years, our ancestors’ diets consisted of wild animals and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Today most people’s diets are centered on grains and carbs – many of which contain gut-blasting , microbiome-damaging gluten whose downstream effects reach the brain. Even setting aside the gluten factor, one of the main reasons that consuming too many grains and carbs is so harmful is that they spike blood sugar in ways other foods, such as fats, meats, fish, poultry and vegetables, do not.”
Low-Fat Diet Risks:
1. Compromised Brain Function: Essentially, the brain is made of fat and requires healthy fatty acids in order to optimally perform. Cholesterol, is in fact, vital to brain neural function that we must get through diet. In fact, studies have shown that low naturally occurring total cholesterol levels are associated with poor cognitive testing results including: executive functioning, abstract reasoning, attention/concentration and word fluency. This translates into unpredictable mood changes, low energy, poor job performance, brain fog and much more.
2. Compromised Cardiovascular Function: New research support the findings that heart disease, including coronary artery disease, is linked more to inflammation than from high fat intake, including saturated fats. An inflammatory diet includes, gluten, GMO’s, refined sugars and carbs and processed vegetable oils. Clinical studies actually show the benefit of monounsaturated fats on heart health – promoting healthy blood lipids, lowering cholesterol naturally, lowering blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity and glucose regulation. Healthy fats include: coconut and olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados, wild caught fish, grass fed dairy and beef, cage-free organic eggs, flax and chia seeds. Even though saturated fats can raise cholesterol but it is not linked to heart disease.
3. Hormone Imbalances: Cholesterol and other fats are essential to building cellular membranes and hormones ( testosterone and estrogen). Cholesterol is also needed to manufacture vitamin D – which acts more like a hormone than a vitamin. Additionally, a low fat diet is associated with an increased risk for infertility and other hormonal issues in women.
4. Weight Gain and Overeating: Latest research supports the connection between fat intake, your hormones, food cravings and weight fluctuations. Fats, in fact, turn on your fat burning mechanisms by impacting the ghrelin hormone levels, controlling insulin resistance, glucose regulation and enzyme activity and ultimately food cravings.
5. Higher risk of Insulin Resistance and Diabetes: Healthy fats are the key to insulin resistance, glucose regulation and, thus, diabetes. Mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids improve insulin sensitivity by modifying cell membrane composition. Even saturated fats have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance may also been linked to adherence to weight loss diets.
6. Elevated Risk of Depression: Fatty acids ( specifically, omega 3’s) are critical to brain functions that regulate mood. Some neurotransmitters are in fact synthesized from fatty acids. Trans fats, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect and raise the risk for depression.
7. Gut Issues: High fat and high fiber foods are correlated to a healthier gut microbiome. This not only affects the gut lining but also the brain (as the brain and gut are connected via the vagus nerve). A diet high in sugar and processed carbs disrupts the gut microbiome balance and feeds pathogenic bacteria.
The Types of Fats:
1. Saturated Fats:
– Important for bone health. Help with calcium absorption.
– Protect liver from toxin damage ( alcohol, prescription meds, household chemicals, metals, pesticides).
– Protect cardiovascular function (including reducing levels of lipoproteins and inflammatory substances).
– Enhance lipid profiles by enhancing HDL cholesterol.
– Decreases triglycerides and lessens impact of LDL cholesterol.
– Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) found in grass-fed beef and raw dairy also aids in fat burning.
Medium-chain saturated fats (MCT) found in coconut oil and milk and grass-fed butter are easily metabolized and used for energy as they are passed directly to the liver.
– They have powerful antibacterial and antiviral and antioxidant properties.
– They help repair gut lining issues and leaky gut syndrome and are effective in neutralizing candida virus symptoms.
– Help promote weight loss by increasing thermogenesis (calorie expenditure).
2. Monounsaturated Fats:
– Possess oelic acid and found in olives, olive oil, avocados, eggs, and some nuts.
– Benefits cardiovascular function – reduces LDL and elevates HDL cholesterol.
– Decreases oxidized LDL cholesterol, reduces oxidative by-products such as free radicals.
– Helps lower blood pressure.
– Decreases blood clot formation.
3. Polyunsaturated Fats:
– Omega 3’s ( eggs, wild caught salmon, sardines, flax seeds, grass fed beef)
– Many anti-inflammatory benefits.
– Critical to cellular structure and integrity in the body and brain.
– Integral to cell membrane formation, regulating gene expression and cellular function.
– Been shown to prevent and alleviate anxiety and depression.
– Supports cognitive function and prevents age-related cognitive decline.