Quick note: Before we get too far into diets and dieting, please first consider your overall goals to lose weight and your general state of health. Also, please keep in mind that we are not advocating any diet, e.g., the Keto diet. Such diets are quite extreme and, as we’ll discuss, best reserved for short-term weight loss. When in doubt, seek the advice of a licensed medical professional in your effort to lose weight.
Introduction: The “Fat Scare”
“Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings suggest the industry-sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose…” – Kearns, C., et al., “Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research.” (source)
From the second half of the twentieth century, until about 20 years ago, many people had a misplaced fear of dietary fat. “Fat? Why?” Well, as you will read, the food industry, in particular, the sugar industry, engaged in acts of misinformation by lying to the public and producing sources of information that were not only false but damaging to the public’s health.
We insist – as do food scientists, nutritionists, researchers, and scientists – that the main culprit for heart disease, obesity, and other medical conditions is not fat, but sugar. Evidence to the same is both convincing and overwhelming, as we’ll discuss.
We will cover a few things in this article, including the sugar industry’s efforts to deceive the public, the science behind low-fat diets, the case for healthy fats, and the ten ways a high-fat diet can help you burn fat and lose weight.
The Story of Ancel Keys
Let’s rewind the clock to the year 1956 when the work of American physiologist and researcher Ancel Keys led the American Heart Association (AHA) to “inform people that a diet which included large amounts of butter, lard, eggs, and beef would lead to coronary disease.” While Key’s hypotheses in this and other regards were not altogether incorrect, the scientist – and worse, the U.S. government – incredulously showed little interest in furthering research into the effects (and dangers) of sugar.
It is not an exaggeration to state that the modern American diet was largely shaped by the conclusions of Keys and his contemporaries in the government. Even when faced with legitimate contradictory evidence, prominent scientists, including Keys, refused to acknowledge the relationships between sugar, poor health, and heart disease. Subsequent studies discredited many of Key’s central findings, particularly his dubious claims regarding the supposed heart benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
The promulgation of dietary and health misinformation bears, at least partial, responsibility for the continued adoption of low-fat diets. This, despite overwhelming evidence that such diets are not only ineffective, but unhealthy. Many academics and corporate hacks – two groups that aren’t always mutually exclusive, by the way – were of little help. Let’s discuss one of the more scandalous affairs involving entrenched special interests and a school by the name of Harvard University.
“It’s the sugar, stupid!”
In the ‘60s, the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF; now called the “Sugar Association”) paid three less-than-ethical Harvard University scientists to “downplay the link” between sugar and coronary heart disease, as reported by the New York Times in 2013.
In 2016, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) published a scathing article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In this article, they detail the corporate malfeasance of the then-named Sugar Research Foundation. After examining troves of internal SRF documents, reports, and statements, the research team reported the following:
- In 1965, the SRF sponsored an academic article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This article dismissed sucrose (sugar) as a potential contributor to heart disease. UCSF researchers found evidence that SRF “set the (article’s) objective, contributed articles for inclusion and received drafts.” These are all visible indications of faulty, biased research.
- Accumulating evidence contrasting SRF’s claims that sugar did not increase the risk of heart disease began surfacing as early as November of 1962. SRF officials were aware of this.
- In July of 1965, D. Mark Hegstead, one of the two Harvard researchers tasked with overcoming the mounting case against sucrose (in particular, fructose), informed the head of research at SRF that the latest research “could threaten sugar sales.”
- “SRF funding and participation” of Hegstead and colleagues 1967 article (published in the journal New England Journal of Medicine) was not disclosed – a scandalous omission suggesting collusion of said parties.
- UCSF researchers conclude the article with this: “Policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry-funded studies…and include…studies appraising the effect of added sugars on multiple CHD biomarkers and disease development.”
5 Ways a “High Fat” Diet Can Help You Lose Weight
Despite what the sugar industry would have you believe, not all fats are bad. In fact, there is such a thing as “healthy” fats, (i.e. monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). There are also “unhealthy” fats, (i.e. saturated fats) – and these should be strictly limited, if not avoided.
In fact, the right kinds of fats – in the right amounts – can even help speed up your goals to lose weight! Here are five ways fat can help burn… well, fat:
Healthy fat helps keep you full
One of the more difficult aspects of being able to lose weight is not eating when you’re not supposed to! (Sorry, that’s a bit obvious, huh?)
A study published in the journal Appetite confirms what many people already know: healthy fats in the form of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (FA) help to manage and suppress appetite in overweight and obese individuals. Good dietary sources of omega-3 FAs include: nuts and seeds (chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts); plant oils (canola oil, flaxseed oil, and soybean oil); and fatty fish (mackerel, tuna, and salmon.) Dietary sources omega-3 FAs include cereals, eggs, nuts, poultry, and whole grains.
Healthy fat accelerates the ability to lose weight
Consuming more fats and proteins and moderating carbohydrate intake help shed excess water weight and speed digestion. In a 2007 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association of 311 overweight women, participants who adhered to a high-fat diet lost more weight (and had lower blood sugar levels) than those on low-fat diets. Moreover, researchers reached the conclusion that high-fat diets reduce obesity risk in premenopausal women.
- Healthy fat trims the tummy
Belly fat is not merely unsightly; it is potentially dangerous. “Visceral fat,” in medical parlance, is a “major risk factor” for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers.
High-fat, high-fiber foods such as avocados or high-fat, high-protein foods such as yogurt, can help burn abdominal fat. Recent studies demonstrate that the medium-chain fats in coconut oil can both increase metabolism and decrease fat storage from high calorie intake.
Healthy fat protects against metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is defined as “a cluster of metabolic disorders,” such as high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, low healthy cholesterol (HDL) count, and high glucose levels. Metabolic syndrome affects around 23 percent of the population and is directly linked to obesity and physical inactivity.
Omega-3 FAs may help to prevent metabolic syndrome by promoting blood vessel and heart health. In addition, omega-3s help raise healthy (HDL) cholesterol levels.
Healthy fat boosts heart health (Take that, sugar industry!)
Finally, a diet rich in healthy fats promotes heart health. This is critical to both the voluntary and involuntary processes underlying fat and weight loss. Unlike the nutritionally worthless ingredient known as sugar, healthy fats – in the form of monounsaturated fats – improve blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease the risk of heart disease.
Of course, a healthy heart is necessary for proper blood circulation. This, in turn, aids metabolic processes, promotes proper digestion, and supports exercise.