The Truth about Fats

Fats are important in a balanced diet because they help to produce hormones and feed our brain while adding delicious flavor and texture to food. They also help to slow digestion (which contributes to the feeling of satiety). Unfortunately with the overwhelming attention given to the new of high fat diets, very little attention is given to the quality of fats and how they effect health in the long run. When is fat considered bad for your health?

A plethora of lipids in the blood, eventually leads to the inability of the fat cells to store additional fat; excess lipids are then shuttled into other tissues such as the penis, eyes, and other organs, including liver cells, resulting in inflammation and increased risk of insulin resistance or obesity. Researchers have hypothesized that development of insulin resistance may be modulated by the types of lipids in their circulation as well as their genetic makeup. Dietary fat types and quantity may impact risk of insulin resistance or cardiovascular disease through diet modification.

truth about fat

Fat as Friend or Foe

After being vilified for years, fat is having a comeback. But with so many sources and types of fat out there, it can be hard to keep track of what’s healthy and what’s not. Many people have turned to the ketogenic diet to successfully lose weight  and reverse insulin resistance  or type two diabetes. A new study, however, offers a simple rule of thumb: Plant fat sources appear to be better for you than animal sources.

Studies of the geographical prevalence of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) have shown a correlation between this increase in dietary fat and the development and progression of MS. The most important research, however, is the life-long work of Professor Roy Laver Swank of the Swank Multiple Sclerosis Clinic in Portland, Oregon, in the USA. Professor Swank noted that the incidence of MS seemed to follow the consumption of saturated fat, particularly dairy products.

The Research

“Researchers set out to understand why saturated and unsaturated fats produce opposite effects in the body, theorizing that something in cell membranes must be able to differentiate between saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fatty acids, such as palmitic acid, are potent activators of enzymes called Jun kinases (JNK), molecules that are implicated in the development of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and atherosclerosis. Unsaturated fatty acids like palmitoleic acid (POA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) work in an opposite manner. They block the activation of JNK by palmitic acid. The incorporation of saturated fatty acids into the cell decreases cellular membrane fluidity. It appears that the cell membrane is the only structure in the cell that can differentiate between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. An enzyme identified as c-Src, which resides within the cell membrane, seems to be responsible for the activation of JNK by palmitic acid and other saturated fatty acids. Saturated fats smother and push c-Scr into the cell membranes, literally clogging membranes at the molecular level and disrupting basic metabolism. Jun kinases set into motion the chemical reactions that cause insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Unsaturated fats, such as POA and EPA, work in an opposite manner and block the accumulation of c-Src, thus preventing the chain of events that lead to health problems.”

healthy fats for weight loss insulin resistance diabetes

Regulating Insulin Resistance and Weight Gain

Foods from animals are the chief sources of saturated fat, including cheeses and meat, whole-fat milk and cream, butter, and ice cream. Not only do they contain high amounts of saturated fats, but they also are riddled with hormones and antibiotics.

Some liquid vegetable oils, such as canola and soybean oil, contain harmful trans fats. These are formed unavoidably during the refining process. The main source of industrially produced trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils. These oils are used by food manufacturers to improve the shelf life and texture of food. Some foods that may contain partially hydrogenated oils include:

  • margarines
  • vegetable shortenings
  • commercially baked goods such as cookies, pies, pastries
  • microwave popcorn
  • fried foods

The key to reducing saturated and trans fat foods leading to insulin resistance, type two diabetes and weight gain is to avoid as many foods derived from animals.

  1.  Skip the bottled, creamy salad dressing and make your own with heart-healthy oils, like olive oil, walnut oil or avocado oil. Mix two parts oil with one part vinegar, add your favorite herbs
  2. Add more seeds into your diet such as healthy flax, chia or hemp seeds by making seed puddings at home by whisking into vegan milks of your choice, and then letting it sit overnight with some of your favorite oats or sprouts grains
  3. Go nuts! Toss a few into salads, spread nut butter on whole grain bread, or snack on pistachios when hunger strikes
  4. Add avocado to sandwiches and salads or toss some into your morning smoothie for some added creamy texture
  5. When you’re craving something salty, skip the chips and reach for olives. Just a few can curb your craving and fill you up
  6. Consider trying some vegetable chips to munch on made with delicious cashew nut butters and green leafy veggies