For decades, fat has been enemy number one, with saturated fats being the worst of all. Now we know we were wrong.
For decades, since the appearance of the famous Framingham Study and the Seven Countries Study, both dietary cholesterol and fat have been seen as great enemies of food. In fact, today many official medical guides continue to prohibit certain foods just because they are rich in cholesterol and fat, despite the fact that multiple studies assure that dietary cholesterol (such as egg cholesterol) does not influence blood cholesterol, and that fats are not such a terrible enemy. Even so, despite everything, people continue to talk about "good fats" and "bad fats”, divided on the basis of nutritionthe food. But things are not so simple.
The "good fats" have always been unsaturated, and the "bad fats" saturated, a chemical name that for years has wanted to divide these macronutrients into more and less healthy. New research has slowly disproved this belief, the most recent of all published in The Lancet in November 2017: cardiovascular risk associated with fat has been greatly exaggerated.
The nuances of saturated fat
According to this work, where the diet of more than 135,000 people in 18 different countries was studied, precisely the fact of stopping eating fat or excessively reducing its intake is worse. In fact, other works have claimed that high-fat diets lengthen life, but without going overboard.
In this study, far from associating saturated fats with an increase in cardiovascular risk, what was shown is that the lower the fat intake and the higher the carbohydrate intake, the risk of death in the next 10 years increased by 28%; For their part, those who consumed the most fat reduced their risk by up to 23% (totally the opposite of what is usually recommended in medical guidelines). And, to curl the curl, these mortality percentages were maintained regardless of the type of fat consumed, including saturated fats, which came to show additional benefits such as reducing the risk of suffering a stroke.
Today the typical percentages of “50% carbohydrates, a maximum of 35% fat and 15% protein are still recommended, probably all or almost all of these numbers sound familiar to you. And, within the percentage of fat, practically any medical association advises not to exceed 6% of daily calories in the form of saturated fat.
But, seen what has been seen, these are erroneous recommendations that at some point must change. The problem is that things in the palace go slowly, and in medicine and nutrition the palace is quite large.
The problem with trying to substitute saturated fats
On the other hand, as we already mentioned when talking about the great lie of the nutritional pyramid, several decades ago the United States Department of Agriculture managed to expel fats from the daily diet, in favor of carbohydrates. Carbs were urged to be a "healthier" substitute, and it turns out that obesity has not stopped increasing since these recommendations began.
For their part, other experts who have noticed that this replacement was a mistake jumped into the pool talking about "good fats" and "bad fats", and stated that all saturated fats should be replaced by unsaturated fats when possible. But here's another problem: some polyunsaturated fats, such as those contained in corn and soybean oils, are of the omega-6 type, which have been linked to an increased cardiovascular risk according to some studies, something that has subsequently also been denied. In fact, the most defended hypothesis is that there should be a relationship between omega-3 and omega-6 of up to 4 to 1 according to some studies, something that is still lacking in evidence. So again, there's a big mess around fats.
In order to improve understanding of fat, an editorial was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last April 2017 that once again stated the same thing we have already discussed: fat in general is not the problem, and saturated fat in particular either. Current evidence does not support the recommendation either to limit saturated fats or to substitute polyunsaturated fats.
Saturated fats are good, depending on where they come from
For decades we have fallen into what nutritionists already call " nutritionist ", that obsession to point to this or that macro or micronutrient and blame it for all the evils of today's diet. Obviously, this is a mistake, and now we know that we have remained too demagogic and simplistic in this way of seeing the current diet: sugar is not the problem, fat is not the problem, not even carbohydrates are the problem. The problem is the current generalized lifestyle, where sedentary lifestyle prevails, the consumption of ultra-processed foods, extraordinarily refined and palatable foods, and where excess is at its best. The problem is eating a lot of very unhealthy foods, and not the consumption of this or that macronutrient.
In fact, fat and its excess have always been related in turn to excess cholesterol, and again we enter the need for nuances: not all cholesterol is the same. The LDL cholesterol (bad known as "bad cholesterol") and its increase has been associated with increased cardiovascular risk, and it seems that saturated fat increases it, but also increases the HDL or "good cholesterol" (another bad name), and that they lower blood triglycerides. Therefore, this fat must not be very bad.
On the other hand, it should be noted that not all LDL is the same, since recent studies have detected that depending on the size of the LDL particles, there is more or less risk: large LDL particles reduce cardiovascular risk, and small particles they would increase cardiovascular risk and inflammation. However, current blood tests do not discriminate between LDL types, only between LDL and HDL, and little else.
Likewise, the original source of fat is highly important: whole milk and pure chocolate, avocado or coconut are foods rich in saturated fat, but they do not increase cardiovascular risk (but the other way around). It is about consuming real food, avoiding prepared and ultra-processed foods, since those foods by themselves are a food and medical problem. And the more food that is prepared at home and less in restaurants or other places where the origin of the food is unknown, the better.
It is not a question of becoming obese with the total amount of fat, but of trying to eat varied and healthy. What does " healthy " mean? Real, fresh food, where fruits, nuts, vegetables, meat and fish, olive oil and dairy predominate if you like. In short, unprocessed foods. Exceeding this type of diet, if done well, is much more complicated than if you follow a Western Diet based on ultra- processed foods.
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