Dietary Fat: Friend or Foe ?

If you’re like most western people, you’re carrying around more body fat than you or your doctor would like. Excess body fat is dangerous – it elevates your risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer and even death.

You may think you can reduce your body fat by cutting down on dietary fat, but hundreds of medical studies have shown that eating a low-fat diet can actually lead to an increase in overall body fat. But wait – if you eat less fat, shouldn’t your body make less fat? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Dietary Fat vs. Body Fat

Like proteins and carbohydrates, dietary fats provide energy for your body. Body fat is the result of eating too many calories. The source of the extra calories doesn’t matter – proteins, carbohydrates and fats are all fair game. If you consume more calories in a day than you use, your body converts the excess into fat.

Medical studies have shown that high-fat diets are not a direct cause of excess body fat. In fact, low-fat and fat-free foods can increase overall body fat because the removed fats are often replaced by high amounts of sugar, carbohydrates and calories.

Understanding the Types of Dietary Fat

Most studies have showed that saturated fats may increase your total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDLs, or “bad” cholesterol). They can also increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

But it’s not so linear that the real cause of those diseases is correlated only to saturated fats and cholesterol intake. The true is not so simple. Most studies (like the China study) suggest that the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer is not correlated only to saturated fats and cholesterol in the diet.

Those “markers” should be considered as signals of a diet rich in animal proteins. So it’s more correct to say that most of those diseases are caused by a diet rich in animal proteins instead. In fact, sources of those harmful fats and cholesterol include animal fats, butter, red meat, eggs, packaged foods, full-fat dairy and fried foods.

The Healthy Way to Eat: The Mediterranean Diet

A Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes seafood, whole and plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and olive oil, is an excellent way to incorporate healthy fats into your diet. A study of more than 1.5 million Americans revealed that Mediterranean diets are associated with a wide range of health benefits, including:

• Decreased risk of death
• Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer
• Decreased risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases

Most major medical groups encourage healthy adults to follow a Mediterranean Diet. With delicious, natural food choices and proven health benefits, a Mediterranean diet can satisfy your appetite and help to prolong your life.