Fat Is Good For You. Confused Yet?

April 2011

Many healthcare practitioners will warn you to watch your cholesterol during the holidays. True there are a lot of high cholesterol foods out there…butter cookies creams custards giblets cheeses dips sauces gravies and fried foods and snacks. I recently attended the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Boston where The Great Fat Debate took place. Renowned medical professionals Walter Willet MD DrPH; Dariush Mozaffarian MD DrPH MPH; Alice Lichtenstein DSc; and Lewis Kuller MD DrPH basically vindicated most fats as the culprit in heart disease; the carbs are the problem. A key point discussed is that there is/was no evidence to support the foundation of grains on the pyramid and the minimization of fat. Finally we know it is the type of fat in the diet not simply the percentage of calories as well as the refined carbs that affects inflammatory diseases processes such as heart disease.

Perhaps my favorite quote/quip also came from Dr. Willet. He said something like “Farmers give cows corn to make them fat...they don't give them fat to make them fat.” This nation’s dependence on corn has been well-documented and its ubiquity can be seen on our waistlines too.

Multiple randomized trials show the advantage of fat in diet on weight loss reduction of heart disease and diabetes. My late colleague the great Dr. Atkins would be happy. Whole eggs certain dietary fats and reduced carbohydrates are the way to go. And so we’re left with a confused public and misinformation from all sides. The science has always been there. Like so many other vital policies money and industry have been in the driver’s seat for too long. The success of the whole foods and organic sustainable lifestyle movement has been truly remarkable to participate in and watch it grow. The increased need for special diet considerations whether because of allergies chronic disease better science or the significant shift in our eating behaviors due to our busy lifestyles has brought us back to placing importance on traditional diets. Of course it’s hard to even know what those are anymore. More on this in future newsletters.

Heart-healthy nuts such as pecans and almonds olives and olive oil can easily be added to side dishes this time of year to offer their benefits. While Dr. Lewis Kuller from the University of Pittsburgh was still focused on reducing saturated fat from animal sources to 7% of the day’s intake the rest of the panel was concentrating on reducing sugars as the main culprit in heart disease. All agreed to increase fats from whole food sources: nuts avocado olives olive oil. Eggs too were vindicated given their great nutritional composition. Basically the Mediterranean Diet was the winner as a disease preventer. Studies in nutrigenomics also support this view.