Dr. Jan McBarron on Common Misconceptions about Fats
Why Incorporating Healthy Fats in One’s Diet is Important
The conviction that fat is the primary cause of weight gain and heart disease dates back to the late 40’s and this viewpoint continued through the 20th century. By the 1960s, the low-fat diet suggested that it might prevent heart disease in high-risk patients, causing many Americans to subscribe to the low-fat ideology, which was touted by physicians, the federal government, the food industry and popular health media at the time.
In recent years, however, new studies have shown that fat is not only good for you but is essential in maintaining brain health. To go over the confusion and shed some light on what fats you should incorporate into your diet, we spoke with bariatric physician, doctor and author, Jan McBarron (Duke and The Doctor).
Before we begin, it is important to note that Americans began to weigh themselves regularly from the late nineteenth century on. Public or penny scales became available in the 1890s, and private bathroom scales were available as early as 1913. The primary point here is that weight loss and reduction was already imbedded in the culture before doctors and physicians started promoting low-fat diets in the 1950s.
During this time, Jan McBarron of Duke and the Doctor explains that high cholesterol and heart disease were being discovered and treated more often, and in an effort to get to the bottom of it, a pathologist named Ancel Keys persuaded the US government that saturated fat was the primary culprit. His study, called the Seven Countries Study, examined the association between diet and cardiovascular disease in several different countries, revealing that the countries where fat consumption was the highest had the most heart disease. However, Keys’ study left out some key evidence: countries where people ate a lot of fat but had little heart disease, countries where fat consumption was low, but heart disease rates were high. In short: he cherry picked his data and fueled an entire industry of low-fat products for decades.
Dr. Jan McBarron Explains the Health Advantages of Fats
In a 2010 evaluation of twenty-one studies and 350,000 subjects, saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, and numerous other studies have reached similar conclusions. Jan McBarron of Duke and The Doctor explained that saturated fat has actually been shown to have numerous benefits for the body, including liver health, strengthened immune system, and regulating your hormones. Now, gram by gam, fat is denser in calories than protein, fiber, or carbohydrates, but it also has the effect of satiating hunger in a more effective way — so it is a sort of win-win situation.
However, it is true that not all fats are created equal, and there are four main types to consider: saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated fat, and trans fat. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature and the type of fat often found in red meat, dairy, and coconut oil. Foods that contain monounsaturated fats are avocado, olive oil, and nuts. Polyunsaturated fats are found in most vegetable oils including sunflower, corn, flaxseed, and soybean oils. Omega 3 and omega 6 are technically polyunsaturated fats. Trans fat is made during the processing of food. When you eat any fat, it’s a combination of different types of the above fats. The worst type of fat for you is trans fat, as it is hydrogenated (processed) to have a longer shelf life.
Why is fat important? Firstly, your brain is made up of over 60 percent fat, and uses it for everything from the bones in your toes to the hair on our heads. When you start incorporating fat into your diet, try focusing on healthy fats, like those from avocados, salmon, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, etc. Ultimately, fats play a pivotal role in our diet, and an effort to consume healthy fats regularly should be the goal in maintaining a balanced diet.