The experts agree: Your heart needs more fat
I couldn't believe what I was reading. The cholesterol paradigm is collapsing under the weight of good science and common sense-never thought I would see it. Reuters Health reports:
"A relatively high amount of fat in the diet may be a boon to a healthy person's cholesterol levels, a small study suggests. On the other hand, limiting fat intake too much could have the opposite effect
"Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that when 11 healthy but sedentary adults followed a very low-fat diet they saw a drop in the 'good' cholesterol believed to protect against heart disease
Three weeks on a diet that [was high in fat] boosted participants' HDL levels, according to findings published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition."
Radical and right
The controversy has been raging for years about the importance (or lack of importance) of cholesterol in the diet. We radicals have been saying all along that the more cholesterol you eat the better. Back in the 70s when the cardiologists were telling their patients to limit eggs to one a week, we were telling them to eat 10 a day if they liked. The American Heart Association and the American Medical Association didn't say much-I guess they thought the idea was so preposterous that it didn't deserve an answer.
Well, now they can answer to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and Dr. David R. Pendergast of the State University of New York, who are (cautiously and a little ambiguously) agreeing with us.
Dr. Pendergast and his colleagues placed 11 healthy adults on a very low-fat diet with only 19 percent of calories from fat-something only a dedicated carrot cruncher could tolerate. The volunteers' good cholesterol, HDL, dropped significantly.
Then Pendergast had them switch to a high-fat plan. After three weeks on this diet, which provided 50 percent of calories from fat, participants' HDL levels went up considerably. And, by the way, the high-fat diet did not raise LDL (bad) cholesterol beyond the levels participants had on their regular diets.
"While saturated fat is blamed for raising 'bad' LDL cholesterol levels, Pendergast said, it may in fact be the combination of lots of fat and too many calories that makes for unhealthy cholesterol profiles."
Saturated fat does not raise cholesterol levels. That was proven 80 years ago by the famous arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who lived on whale and seal blubber for a year and came out of it wiser but no fatter. In fact, he was in great shape.
You aren't what you eat
So far so good. But then Dr. Pendergast starts taking about "calorie balance," which means eating only enough to meet the body's calorie expenditure.
"Fat has more calories per gram than either carbohydrates or protein," Pendergast told Reuters. "And if a person takes in more calories as a result of eating more fat, weight gain may follow."
This simply is not correct-fat does not make you fat. I have eaten a high-fat diet for over 40 years, and I weigh the same as I did in college. What makes you fat is the high-energy, low-nutrient foods that Americans subsist on-bread, pasta, sugar, starchy vegetables, high-sugar fruits, Coke, and more Coke.
But Dr. Pendergast does come through in the end. He says: "This research suggests that both healthy, sedentary people and healthy athletes are probably not well served by diets very low in fat."
Action to take:
No one is well served by a low (animal) fat diet. Eat your eggs (not overcooked), bacon, and sausage. Use a lot of heavy cream, and don't forget the butter.
Meksawan K, Pendergast DR, Leddy JJ, et al. "Effect of low and high fat diets on nutrient intakes and selected cardiovascular risk factors in sedentary men and women," Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2004; 23(2) :131-140
"Low-fat may not be best for heart," Reuters Health, 5/4/05