More than 30 years ago, doctors decided that a low-fat diet was the best way to combat diabetes, weight loss, and heart disease. Unfortunately, this advice was all wrong.
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How the low-fat diet made Americans obese
A low-fat diet, you see, is another way of saying a high carbohydrate diet – because when you eat fewer fatty foods, you have to substitute something else to make up for those missing calories. And this “something else” can only be carbohydrate foods, because protein also contains fat.
What we learned (the hard way) is that this low-fat/high-carb diet made us fat. Weight gain and obesity skyrocketed in America during the 1980s, the era when the low-fat diet was all the rage. The explanation is now obvious, although few people understood what was happening at the time. Here’s how it happened…
When food manufacturers removed the fat from their products, they substituted sugar and sweeteners (in other words, refined carbohydrates) in its place. Often, the calorie content of these low-fat products was the same — or greater — than the full-fat versions. And because dietary fat achieves satiety (fullness or satisfaction) faster and better than carbs, consumers were eating more of these fat-reduced foods in the mistaken belief they would help them control their weight. Obviously, they did just the opposite. But this only explains part of the reason America’s weight ballooned in the low-fat era.
The secret insulin connection
The other, more important reason that Americans got so fat is because carbohydrates – especially refined carbs such as sugar, sweetness, and high fructose corn syrup – spike blood sugar (glucose) levels. This triggers a release of insulin, the hormone responsible for removing this excess glucose from the bloodstream. One way insulin achieves this is by escorting glucose to the liver where it is converted into fat (called triglycerides) and then deposited in the fat cells around your belly and bottom.
Normally, this stored fat would be released between meals and during sleep to feed your cells and metabolism when you’re not eating. In fact, contrary to popular belief, fat (in the form of fatty acids) is the body’s preferred fuel. But here’s the problem: As long as insulin is present in the bloodstream, fat remains locked in your fat cells. Insulin won’t let it out. And because constant noshing and sipping sweets and sodas keeps insulin levels chronically high (a condition called hyperinsulinemia), body fat keeps accumulating.
The vicious cycle of hunger and weight gain
Now you’re beginning to see how our weight problem came to be. But there’s one more important part of the equation — and that’s hunger. Since nutrient-rich fatty acids remain locked away in your fat cells because of insulin’s presence, your muscles, organs, and cells remain undernourished. This is the reason overweight people feel so hungry so very often. They are literally starving from the inside as their cells and brains crave fuel — and the fuel they are craving is carbohydrates.
Here’s the crux of the problem: Eating more carbs spikes new waves of insulin … which creates more fatty triglycerides … which accumulates even more body fat … which leads to greater hunger. It’s a vicious cycle — and the number one reason there’s so much diabetes and obesity in America today.
Dietary fat is the solution – not the problem
Since foods containing fat don’t raise blood sugar levels and can’t trigger insulin, they are ideal for people with diabetes, as well as those desiring to lose weight. I know this is completely contrary to what you’ve been hearing from your doctor and public health officials, but it is a physiological fact.
Before the sugar and refined carbs dominated the American diet, doctors routinely prescribed high-fat/low-carb diets for weight loss — and they worked like a charm. And before the emergence of synthetic insulin, this diet was the only way physicians could keep people with diabetes alive.
High-fat diets are especially effective for weight loss and diabetes for one reason: They do not trigger the body’s insulin response. Therefore, fat is able to escape from your fat cells and nourish your body. It’s a fact that an overweight person can live off his/her body fat for several weeks without eating — and without experiencing hunger (after the third day of beginning the fast) because so much nutrition is locked away in their fat cells.
Fasting, however, is not necessary for weight loss or the reversal of Type 2 diabetes. Simply avoiding refined carbohydrates such as sugar and sweets, sodas and fruit juice, white flour baked goods (including bread, crackers, chips, bagels and muffins), plus pasta and white potatoes, will interrupt the blood sugar-insulin cycle and help you shed excess weight, while reversing insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. This hiatus also gives your pancreas time to rest and heal itself so it can begin producing insulin normally again.
Good fats, bad fats
Whether you want to lose weight or reverse your blood sugar problems, “good fats” are your best dietary friends. These include the saturated fats found in animal products, plus coconut and oils … polyunsaturated fats found in some seafood and certain nuts … and the monounsaturated fats in olive oil, dark chocolate, avocados, plus various seeds and nuts.
The “bad fats” you want to surely avoid are found in polyunsaturated vegetable oils, PUFAs for short, (such as corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and canola oil) and trans fats (identified as “hydrogenated vegetable oil” on food labels). PUFAs are unhealthful because they are refined using high heat and toxic chemicals. Their molecular structure makes them unstable, meaning they oxidize (go rancid) easily. When this happens in the body, massive amounts of free radicals are generated, which damage tissue and cause inflammation. PUFAs are believed to trigger artery disease and have been linked with some cancers.