Why Low Fat Diets Are Unhealthy
As reported in Natural News (3/09) by Elizabeth Walling A Big Fat Fib: Low-Fat is Not the Answer
A few decades ago well-known health experts began recommending that people
eliminate fat from their diets. Some studies at the time seemed to point to fat
as the villain of our modern diet. It soon became obvious to health
professionals that completely eliminating fat was not any kind of solution.
First of all, most people couldn`t stay on this type of extreme diet for any
length of time. Secondly, health problems like cancer, infection, fatigue and
depression ran rampant when fat was eliminated.
So over time we have seen a steady trend reintroducing the idea that fats can be
a part of a healthy diet. It seems that every few years medical experts
slightly raise the recommended amount of fat one should consume. It`s been
happening so slowly it`s almost indiscernible, but if you look closely, low-fat
diets are no longer in style.
Even so, many people are still under the impression that a low-fat diet is
healthy, and most people believe cutting out fat is still the best way to lose
weight. This is a popular misconception that makes sense on the surface, but
when you dig a little deeper the concept begins to unravel.
First, it`s important to look at what the body actually does when you go on a
low-fat diet. The most common belief is when you stop eating fat, your body
will burn its own fat for energy. In reality what really happens is a little
more complicated. Here are some common results of a low fat diet:
• People who drastically lower their fat intake generally increase their
• Even complex carbohydrates can cause a rise in blood sugar and insulin levels,
especially when they aren`t consumed with adequate protein and fat.
• With this sudden influx of excess carbohydrates, there is simply too much sugar
in the blood to be used for energy. The rest is converted into fat and
• Without adequate fat and protein in the diet (which is common during a low-fat
diet), the body is forced to break down lean body mass to use the nutrients it
needs to function. This includes muscle and bone mass.
• Losing lean body mass shows up as drastic weight loss on the scale at first,
which may thrill the dieter, but over time the body uses less energy because of
the loss of muscle. Combined with excess fat storage because of high insulin
levels, eventually weight loss on a low-fat diet is almost impossible and you
may even start to gain weight.
Moreover, a low-fat diet can be downright harmful to your body, especially in
the long-term. High insulin levels and the breakdown of lean body mass are not
healthy. Over time, these factors can cause serious hormone imbalances and can
even contribute to health problems like diabetes and heart disease. Cutting out
fat is merely swinging the pendulum to another extreme that will have negative
A 2008 report in the New England Journal of Medicine may interest dieters who
think low-fat is the answer. The report showed the results of a study which
compared the effectiveness of low-fat, low-carb and Mediterranean diets. The
study was partially funded by the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Foundation
(which is not to be confused with the commercial venue of Atkins Nutritionals
Inc.). There were 322 participants in the study, all of whom were moderately
obese. One of the three diets was randomly assigned to each person.
Study participants on the low-fat and Mediterranean diets had moderate calorie
restrictions, while those on the low-carb diet did not have any. Overall, the
low-fat diet had the least effect on both weight loss and cholesterol profiles,
while the low-carb diet was most effective (the Mediterranean diet was a close
second). It should be noted the low-carb dieters were consuming about 120 grams
of carbs per day, which is a more balanced approach compared to extreme
low-carb diets of yesteryear.
So, is fat really all that bad? In our society fats can be good or bad,
depending on the source and how they`re prepared. Processed fats that have been
exposed to heat, light and air can be rancid and oxidized. Polyunsaturated oils
like soybean, canola and corn oil are most susceptible to damage. These damaged
oils are linked with many health problems such as cancer, premature aging and
degenerative diseases like Alzheimer`s. Then we have oils that have been
purposely altered like hydrogenated oils. These are chock full of trans fat,
which is known to sharply increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and many
types of cancer. These types of over-processed, damaged fats should be avoided
as much as possible.
Instead, if we are supposed to increase our fat intake, it should be with
healthy, unprocessed fats from as natural a source as possible. Organic fats
are best, since harmful chemicals and hormones tend to be stored in fat. Again,
what we are really looking at here is a balance of nutrition. The body utilizes
carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Cutting out any one of these nutrients is a
mistake. To achieve optimum health, the best thing you can do is eat a diet
consisting mostly of natural, unprocessed foods with an overall balance of fat,
protein and carbohydrates.