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Does Fat Make You Fat?

January 31, 2014

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One of the most common nutrition misconceptions that America is having trouble shaking off is that fat makes you fat.

It started creeping into our culture in the 80’s, which led to hundreds of “low-fat” and “no-fat” food products hitting store shelves. Its popularity continued through the 90’s, with some products still proudly touting this supposed “health” claim to this day. Many nutrition researchers think it’s no coincidence that our obesity epidemic started and our overweight population skyrocketed during this same period.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Survey, up until the 80’s, our obesity rate was approximately 16%. By 2008, less than 30 years later, that number had nearly tripled to 40.8%.

It turns out that the original research that sparked the “fat makes you fat” craze was either short term, wrongly analyzed, or performed on animals. Despite this, food manufacturers, and even the American Heart Association, ran with it, suggesting low-fat diets.   

As manufacturers replaced fat (which makes food taste good) with sugar, our national waistband expanded. Fat helps us feel satiated, so when we remove it and replace it with sugar or carbs, we end up eating more of the non-fat stuff, and therefore more calories, in order to feel full.

What’s more, the extra calories aren’t just any calories, but the worst kind of calories we can get: from sugar. The rapid spike and decline in blood glucose that sugar causes is now known to be the cause of weight gain. A study led by Harvard Medical School and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that even when calorie intake was the same, those on a low glycemic (low sugar) diet lost more weight than those on other types of diets, including low fat.

It probably doesn’t help that the macronutrient, fat, shares the same moniker as the undesirable extra roll of flesh that bulges over our waistband.

Bottom line: Fat does not make you fat, sugar does.

What’s more, fat is a necessary nutrient needed for cardiovascular, brain, skin, and overall health. It protects out organs, stores energy, and is needed to absorb certain nutrients.

My favorite sources of fat are avocados, coconut, raw nuts, and raw seeds. Enjoy these foods without fear of weight gain.

And if you’re worried that saturated fat causes heart disease and strokes, that too, has been disproved. This study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that saturated fat has been wrongfully vilified, and does not actually cause heart disease and stroke as commonly thought. In fact this study shows that 75% of heart attack patients have cholesterol levels that would not indicate they are at risk for such a cardiac event. What many heart attack patients do have is diabetes or pre-diabetes

Have you changed your sugar or fat intake? If so, what changes have you seen in your body? Share with us in the comments below!