For the first time in human history, we have constant access to more food calories than ever before. Thank advanced, organized agricultural production for that. Food security – yay!
But like any strength overplayed, it has become our Achilles heel.
We eat too much industrialized food. In fact, only 31.2% of US adults are normal weight or less. As for the rest of us?
- 33.1% are considered overweight.
- 35.7% are considered obese.
- Among the obese, 6.3% are considered extremely obese.
Yet these rates rose during a time when fat was considered the enemy and diet foods came into vogue. Many of us cut out high calorie fat by replacing it with “healthier” carbs.
Case in point? A pair of recent studies on full-fat dairy.
The first, published in Circulation, looked at the effects of consuming full-fat and low-fat dairy on obesity risk in female participants. Those who had the highest levels of dairy fat in their blood had a 46% lower risk of developing diabetes in a span of 15 years, compared to those with the lowest levels.
In the second, published in the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that women who consumed the most high-fat dairy products had an 8% reduced risk of being overweight or obese.
This could be because dairy fats help improve the ability of the liver and muscles to break down sugar from food. Or it may be that microbes found in high-fat dairy foods such as cheese improve the body’s response to insulin. But also, since eating more fat offers satiety, it could be that participants just ate fewer carbs and less sugar.
Sugar and refined carbs act as fillers for the absence of fat. The thing is, sugar and carbs support inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body fuels chronic disease: gum disease, tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer.
And truth be told, your body needs fat – for energy, for proper brain function, for transporting and storing fat-soluble vitamins, cell function, hormone formation, and more.
Contrary to the accepted view, which is not scientifically based, saturated fats do not clog arteries or cause heart disease. In fact, the preferred food for the heart is saturated fat; and saturated fats lower a substance called Lp(a), which is a very accurate marker for proneness to heart disease.
Saturated fats play many important roles in the body chemistry. They strengthen the immune system and are involved in inter-cellular communication, which means they protect us against cancer. They help the receptors on our cell membranes work properly, including receptors for insulin, thereby protecting us against diabetes. The lungs cannot function without saturated fats, which is why children given butter and full-fat milk suffer less often from asthma than children given reduced-fat milk and margarine. Saturated fats are also involved in kidney function and hormone production.
Saturated fats are required for the nervous system to function properly, and over half the fat in the brain is saturated. Saturated fats also help suppress inflammation. Finally, saturated animal fats carry the vital fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2, which we need in large amounts to be healthy.
But not all fats are created equal. Those to avoid are trans fats (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils), industrially processed oils, and oils from genetically modified crops such as soy and corn.
Instead, look to natural saturated and monounsaturated fats. Butter. Coconut oil. Lard. Extra virgin olive oil. Chicken, duck, or goose fat. Expeller-expressed flax, sesame, or peanut oil. Fish liver oils.
As ever, opt for organic when you can – as well as pastured dairy and other animal products.
These are the kinds of fats our bodies were designed to consume. We’re designed to eat real food, fat and all. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, traditional diets included
- 30% to 80% fat (most of it saturated and monounsaturated).
- No refined or denatured foods.
- Animal protein.
- Raw dairy.
Maybe all we really need to do is embrace what our ancestors knew all along.