The Low Fat Fiasco
For the past 40 years, Americans have been warned to stay away from saturated fats to avoid heart disease, yet our incidence of premature death from heart disease has risen steadily. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and come from animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, foods that have been human dietary staples for centuries. The thinking was that fat, when ingested, led to elevated cholesterol levels that could contribute to blocked arteries. Fat consumption was also associated with weight gain and obesity.
We Got It Wrong
In an effort to reduce calories from saturated fats, dietary recommendations from the FDA, USDA and CDC were established in the 1980s that encouraged high consumption of carbohydrates and limited consumption of protein and fats. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils in extreme moderation were recommended to replace butter and lard in cooking. Jumping on the low-fat bandwagon, food manufacturers reduced the fat content of their products and replaced fat calories with sugar and salt to enhance flavor. Despite this shift in dietary practice, obesity and heart disease among Americans soared.
The Not-So-Sweet Truth
Recent research has revealed that sugar, and not fat, may be at the root of heart disease and obesity. A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that individuals who consume higher amounts of added sugar, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of obesity. They are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Sugar is often hidden in processed food. Refined grains like white flour and rice are quickly broken down to sugar in your digestive tract and absorbed into your body.
Where Do We Go From Here?
For many, a ketogenic diet high in fats and vegetables and low in carbohydrates has been shown to promote healthy body weight and reduced risk of metabolic disorders associated with heart disease. In a nutshell, a ketogenic diet calls for an increased consumption of green leafy vegetables, small amounts of meat, full-fat dairy, eggs, nuts and fish, coupled with a dramatic reduction in grains and sugar. Fruits should be consumed in moderation. Organic grass-fed animal products and organic produce are best, as they reduce exposure to harmful hormones, antibiotics and chemicals.
At the heart of all change is education. The more you know and understand about your body and how lifestyle choices affect your health, the better equipped you will be to prevent and reverse the deadly precursors to heart disease. As a fitness professional, it is up to you to educate your clients and help them to make better choices. W.I.T.S. offers certification and continuing education courses that will fill the gaps in your understanding about heart disease. To get started, check out our Nutrition Bundle Special.
References and Credits
Brasco J. Low Grain and Carbohydrate Diets Treat Hypoglycemia, Heart Disease, Diabetes Cancer and Nearly ALL Chronic Illness. Retrieved from http://www.mercola.com/article/carbohydrates/scientific_evidence_low_grains.htm.
Chowdhury R, et al. Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2014;160(6):
Yang Q, et al. Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014;174(4):516-524.
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