Eat Fat to Lose Fat

( [email protected] ) Apr 17, 2004 08:54 AM EDT

Eat less fat and lose weight—that’s the advice we have been following for the past 30 years; however, statistics show that we are fatter than ever. Consider these findings:

From 1960 to 2000, the prevalence of overweight people increased from 31.5% to 33.6% in US adults.

In the same time period, the prevalence of obesity more than doubled from 13.3% to 30.9% in US adults, with most of the rise occurring in the past 20 years.

Our fascination with lowfat diets—which usually include a lot of carbohydrates—has caused us to gain rather than lose weight. What went wrong? How should we be eating? Let Christian Post help you understand how you can shed fat by eating fat!

Why do lowfat diets fail?

For the past 30 years, we have been following traditional recommendations that a lowfat, high-carbohydrate diet will help us lose weight and fight diseases such as heart disease and cancer. The government's food pyramids and food guides are the official lowfat, high-carbohydrate diet plan, emphasizing the consumption of carbohydrates such as bread, cereal, rice and pasta, and de-emphasizing fats and oils. However, with obesity rates soaring, the food guide is now under review and new research even suggests that following the traditional food guide may actually promote rather than prevent diseases such as heart disease.

What went wrong?

Problem #1

People ate too many calories: Statistics gathered since the 1970s show that with the emergence of lowfat, high-carbohydrate diets we began consuming more calories—about 400 more each day. People got brainwashed by the lowfat craze and thought they could eat all they want as long as it was low in fat. However, what people did not realize was that lowfat products were made by replacing the fat with sugar, making them high in calories. So, with the increased calorie intake came increased weight gain.

Problem #2

People ate too many refined carbohydrates: With the obsession of cutting fat came an over-consumption of carbohydrates; after all, carbohydrates are virtually fat-free. However, most people ignored the effect carbohydrates can have on blood sugar and insulin levels and, ultimately, on weight. After you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into sugar and move into the bloodstream. Your body then secretes the hormone insulin to lower blood sugar to normal levels. If we eat too much carbohydrates, and the wrong types of carbohydrates, our body will over-secrete insulin—excess insulin gets stored as fat. Carbohydrates that quickly get absorbed into the blood stream also lead to sudden surges of insulin and to low blood sugars and increased hunger, which makes us crave and eat more.

Lowfat vs. low-carbohydrate

Although it may require a shift in thinking, research shows that eating fewer carbohydrates, not less fat, appears to be a key component to weight loss. In a study that appeared in the May, 2003 New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that obese patients who were placed on a low-carbohydrate diet (30 grams per day) for six months lost more weight and scored better on cardiovascular and diabetes markers than those on a lowfat, calorie-restricted diet.

Participants in the low-carbohydrate group were not given a limit on total fat intake but were educated on the healthy types of fats, such as omega-3 fats. The lowfat group was limited to no more than 30% of caloric intake from fat. The results showed:

The low-carbohydrate, higher fat dieters lost an average of 13 pounds compared to 4 pounds for the lowfat group;

Triglyceride levels (fats in the blood that can cause heart disease) were lowered by an average of 20% in the low-carbohydrate group vs. 4 % in lowfat group; and

Insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic people improved in those on the low-carbohydrate diet versus the lowfat diet (fasting blood sugars reduced by 9% vs. 2% in lowfat group).

Weight loss ways

Eating fewer carbohydrates and more protein and fat appears to help people shed pounds successfully. But, with so many variations of the low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet, many are left wondering how low or how high to go. Follow the Christian Post guidelines for healthy amounts of fats, carbohydrates and proteins for successful, long-term weight loss.

Eat the right carbohydrates: The glycemic index is a tool based on the idea that the longer it takes for carbohydrates to be digested, the less the impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. Foods that are high on the glycemic index are simple and refined carbohydrates such as white flour, white bread and pasta, pop, candy and sweets. Ironically, these are all the foods we would eat on a lowfat diet plan. Alternatively, foods that are low on the glycemic index are those that contain fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and some whole grains such as kamut and spelt. Fiber slows digestion, causing a much slower rise in blood sugar and less insulin secretion, helping with weight loss. Healthy carbohydrates should make up about 30 to 40% of your total caloric intake.

Include the right fats: Fats slow digestion and lowers the glycemic index rating of foods. Eating fat with your foods actually helps to create a more even blood sugar and insulin balance, aiding with weight loss. However, there are goods fats and bad fats. The good fats include: fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, fish oils, nuts (walnuts, almonds), seeds (sesame, flax), omega-3 eggs, olives, olive oil and avocado. The bad fats include: marbled red meats; full-fat dairy products, such as butter; hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats), such as margarine; and fried foods and tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oils. Healthy fats should make up about 30% of your total caloric intake.

Enjoy lean proteins: Protein, like fat, slows digestion, lowers the glycemic index and helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels on an even keel. Good sources of protein include: fish, poultry, turkey, soy, tofu, lowfat dairy products, lean meats and egg whites. Poorer protein choices include: fatty red meat, hamburgers, ribs, pork and full-fat dairy products. Lean proteins should make up about 30 to 40% of your total caloric intake.

Get moving: What you eat is only half the equation when it comes to battling the bulge—the other half is physical activity. Both cardiovascular exercise and weight training help boost your metabolism and keep weight off. Follow your Christian Post Exercise Program for great workouts to keep you slim!

Final thoughts

Despite the need for more long-term studies comparing the lowfat diet with a diet that emphasizes lower carbohydrates and good fats, there is substantial evidence to support the notion that we need to eat fat to lose fat! The Christian Post philosophy—cutting refined starches and sugars and eating more vegetables, fruit, lean proteins and healthy fats—will help you to lose weight and feel better and may reduce your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Consider good fats your friend—not foe!