The tropical fat that stunned science

The Good Life Letter 

12th January 2018

I think we can all agree that pizza and other fast food can never be classed as good foods.

Enjoyable they may be as a treat but certainly should never be a major part of the daily diet.

One of the reasons is the excessively high amounts of fats they contain – which most people understand...
...the problem is though that the dietary fat story is not that simple.

A few weeks ago I highlighted the issues around High Street vegetarian options and their excessively high fat content, and several of you took me to task over this comment.

As you rightly said, not all fat is bad.

Start looking in to the issue and you discover a whole range of different types – trans fats, polymers, hydrogenated, non-hydrogenated, saturated and unsaturated being just a confusing starter.

This creates a massive problem for those who try to eat sensibly.

We all know that we need some fats, it is what our body craves to nourish important tissues like our brains. They are the basis of key hormones and are very necessary right now as they act as insulation to keep us warm.

This is all in addition to the fact they provide a great source of energy, which is why athletes have high fat diets in preparation for competition.

The major consideration though is that not all fats are good for us...

But how do you tell the difference?

The fats we all need to eat

Fat has been demonised as the cause of many health problems.

It has become all too easy to link higher dietary intake with increased levels of cholesterol in the blood and on to enhanced risk of cardiovascular disease.

The justification for why we all need to be on statins – at least according to the Daily Express (in fact many of their stories would have you believe that these hateful drugs are the answer to all man’s ills... but that rant is for another day!).

But the equation isn’t so simple... it never is.

In essence, all foods that contain fat will have a mix of the three basic types of fat in them and a whole host of important fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K.

The main fat types are:

  • Saturated: The bad fat, or so we are led to believe. This is the one that is consistently linked to blood cholesterol levels and we are told to avoid it as we would a rabid dog.
In 2010 a leading nutritionist, Dr Krauss (director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and adjunct professor of nutritional studies at the University of San Francisco at Berkley... so he should know) shocked fellow professionals by concluding that saturated fat could not be linked to heart disease.
His work was followed this year by others from Harvard and Cambridge Universities who came to the exact same conclusion.
The problem is, concludes Nina Teicholz in an article in The Independent last August, that "It seemed that saturated fat, our principal dietary culprit for decades, had been unfairly convicted.
"The truth is there never has been solid evidence that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be true because nutrition policy was derailed over the past half-century by personal ambition, bad science, politics, and bias."
Strong words but actually missing the other important part... the drive by pharmaceutical and food companies keen on selling their low-fat products and cholesterol busting drugs.
  • Monounsaturated: The good fat, found in olive oil, avocado and almonds. This type of fat is consistently linked to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and we are encouraged to seek out foods that have higher levels rather than those with saturated fat.
Lazy nutritionists and well meaning but misguided commentators often laud these fats and oils above all others, imbuing them with mystical qualities, when in fact they are just another type of nutrient.
  • Polyunsaturated: The fishy ones which include the omega 3 and 6 versions that are so important for us to balance in our diet. Like monounsaturated versions these fats and oils are promoted as uniquely beneficial and receive star billing on low-fat spread advertisements... but often they can be as bad for us in large quantities as anything else can be.

Things become complicated when we then look at non-natural fats, those which are the result of food manufacturing techniques leading to the production of variants known as trans fats – which are abundant in the deep-fried foods found in takeaways and the likes. These fats are definitely bad for us and are the ones we should avoid.

In their natural states though we need a balance of fats to be healthy – we just need to keep our intakes of the overly refined type to a minimum, something that new research has proven.

The interesting thing is that the scientists running the project still don’t understand how they achieved the results they did.

The case for coconut

Cambridge researchers conducted a trial on behalf of Michael Mosley, and his BBC programme ‘Trust me I’m A Doctor’ aimed at showing that the current craze for using coconut oil was misguided.

Their premise was that this product contained incredibly high levels of saturated fat and therefore would cause blood cholesterol levels to rocket, especially in the bound form with the low-density lipoprotein carrier (LDL) which is often cited as being the most damaging to our blood system.

What they discovered astounded them and has caused the dietary advice community to rethink its entire strategy.
You see far from causing dramatic rises in LDL levels it actually led to a major drop but also initiated a significant rise in the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) form which has always been linked to healthy cardiovascular function.
When the lead researcher, Prof. Kay-Tee Khaw, was asked how this had happened she said something very surprising:

"I have no real idea," she candidly replied. "Perhaps it is because the main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid and lauric acid may have different biological impacts on blood lipids to other fatty acids. The evidence for that comes mainly from animals, so it was fascinating to see this effect in free-living humans."

So, it looks like many people have to think again about the way our bodies use fat and that the textbooks and self appointed nutritional advisors have got it very wrong.

Using a daily supplement of coconut oil has been shown to be very beneficial to cardiovascular health – maybe we should all start a new habit – click here to discover more about this amazing natural fat.

Yours, as always



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