Low Fat Diets Can Still Make You Fat

For years, popular diet books assured the chubby masses that a low-fat diet was the key to weight loss. It's calorie density, not fat, that determines how many calories people eat ," says Susan Roberts of Tufts University in Boston .

For 18 days, Roberts offered 14 people meals that were either low-fat (20 percent of calories from fat) or high-fat (40 percent fat). But, unlike other studies comparing high-fat and low-fat diets, these two regimens had the same amount of fiber, palatability, and calorie density (a food's calories divided by its weight). "When we kept calorie density constant, people on the high-fat diet ate no more calories than people on the low-fat diet ," says Roberts. But her research doesn't let fat off the hook, because it's so calorie-dense. "Fat is important to watch out for, but low-fat foods that are high in sugar like Snack Well's cookies and Entenmann's cakes are also high in calorie density ," says Roberts's colleague Megan McCrory .

The Bottom Line Is That Low-Fat Diets That Are Loaded With Vegetables And Fruits And Other High-Fiber, Low-Calorie Foods May Indeed Help Keep The Pounds Off. Diets Filled With Calorie-Dense Low-Fat Cakes, Cookies, Ice Cream And Even Bread, Pasta, And Crackers, May Not.  

No Such Thing As Fattening Food ( Nutrition Made Simple Robert Crayon, M.S.,C.N. )

When most people look at a food label the first two things they ask are: (1) How many calories does it have, and (2) How much fat does it have? These factors are not as important as the hormonal effects of food. More calories and more fat may cause weight gain, but they do not always. Choosing food because of their fat and calorie content is like making friends on the basis of IQ or income levels. You choose your friends because of their overall effect on your life, not because of their salary. Select foods for their overall effects as well, and look beyond numbers like calorie or fat content.

When considering eating any food, you should ask only one question: What effect will this food have on my metabolism? There are no fattening foods...only fattening metabolisms. Your body's hormones and enzymes will decide whether the food you eat will turn to fat. The following factors influence how well we burn off the food we eat:
 Thyroid Hormone Levels
 Insulin Levels
 Growth Hormone Levels
 Amount Of Muscle Tissue
 Tissue Responsive To Hormones Like Insulin And Thyroid Hormone
 Number Of Fat-Burning Mitochondria In You Muscle Cells
 Levels Of Nutrients Needed For Fat Burning

Often, what keeps us from understanding nutrition is not that we lack the right answers but that we ask the wrong questions. By merely looking at the calorie and fat content of food, we miss the much larger issue of food's metabolic and hormonal effect on the body. Too many calories and too much fat is undesirable. Yet calorie and fat content are less significant than the hormonal reaction that all foods cause. It is the lack of understanding of this hormonal effect of food that keeps many people from losing weight.

In 1982 the Nobel Prize was given to scientists who made groundbreaking discoveries about prostaglandins, a powerful class of hormones that control the body. The most powerful effect foods have on your body is their effect on these hormones and hormones like insulin. If insulin levels are high or prostaglandins are imbalanced, weight loss can be difficult if not impossible. What upsets prostaglandins and insulin the most are missing nutrients, a lack of essential fatty acids, and consumption of refined carbohydrates, especially sugar, which triggers insulin to store fat. When 26,473 Americans were studied, it was found that those who ate the most nuts were the least obese. Nuts are high in fat...a high quality, beneficial fat. Nuts stabilize blood sugar, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and provide satiety. They also provide the nutrients and essential fatty acids needed to create the right prostaglandins that stimulate weight loss. Fat-free cookies may have little fat and fewer calories than nuts, but the sugar in them will raise insulin, imbalance blood sugar, stimulate your appetite, upset prostaglandins, and raise cholesterol. Think of food in three-dimensional terms, not just according to the statistics on the label.

If you could control the actions of the hormones in your body, you could eat all the food you want and still lose weight. When you put together a nutrition program for weight loss, therefore, you want to select the foods that will help create the right hormonal balance.

Now deceased, Robert Crayon, M.S., C.N. was a clinician, researcher, and educator who was called "one of the top ten nutritionists in the country" by "Self" magazine (1993). He was also the associate editor of "Total Health" magazine and president of "Designs For Health", an educational institution that since 1989 has trained countless health care practitioners in the latest findings in clinical nutrition.

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