Fat Facts and Common Misconceptions

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Phillip Chang, MD

Phillip Chang, MD

Board Certified By The American Board of Plastic Surgeons.
Voted Top Plastic Surgeon in Loudoun, Virginia
Offices in Leesburg, Virginia.

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Best of Loudoun 2019
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In today’s society, everyone has an obsession with cutting out fat. You can find many “fat-free” food products in grocery stores. You can turn on the television and see a dozen commercials about “fat trimming” products and equipment. Many people think if they cut out fat from their diet, they’ll achieve ultimate health and the lean body of their dreams. However, what if fatty foods aren’t the issue? Let’s take a closer look at the truth about fat. 

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What Is Fat?

In order to know what fat does in the body, we first need to know what it is. Fat is one of the main macronutrients that we find in many foods. When we talk about fat, we need to understand that fat is a food group. Within that group, there are different types of fats. These include saturated, unsaturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. 

You need a certain amount of fat in your body to keep it working properly. Fat acts like a fuel source for your body. You need it for energy. And it helps your body absorb nutrients. However, you need the right types of fats.

Our Fat Obsession

No doubt you’ve heard that you should always avoid saturated fats and foods that’ll raise your cholesterol. Where did this idea come from? 

Ancel Keys’ Research

Ancel Keys, creator of the “Diet-Heart Hypothesis,” spent a long time analyzing research from seven countries. He compared data from people with heart attacks and high-fat diets to those that didn’t eat high-fat diets. He eventually concluded that eating fat leads to heart attacks; and therefore, we should avoid fat. 

After he shared his research, organizations such as the American Heart Association, went along. Thousands of people joined the movement to avoid fat and cholesterol. The problem was that there wasn’t enough evidence to support his theory.

Dr. George Mann’s Hypothesis

Other doctors and researchers noticed the lacking evidence in Ancel Keys’ research. One of these doctors, Dr. George Mann, worked with a group of researchers on a study called “The Framingham Study.” The study aimed to help prove Keys’ findings of fat and cholesterol. However, they found the opposite. This group discovered that fat isn’t the main cause of cardiovascular disease.  

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Common Misconceptions About Fat

Now that we’ve looked at some theories, let’s look at the common myths our society has regarding fat. 

Fat Clogs Your Arteries

This is one of the most common misconceptions about fat. However, science does not support this claim. 

Saturated fats such as butter, oil, and lard break down at room temperature. The heat actually causes them to solidify. When you consume fat, the molecules change in your body. 

Your digestive system creates gastric acid to help break down the food you eat. It breaks up the fat as well. Then, the body converts it to lipid proteins.

Fat Sits In Your Body

Many people think that when you eat fat it goes “right to your thighs” (or another body part). The truth is that the body knows exactly what to do with fat. It takes several hours for your body to break down fat. Then, it stores it for natural energy.

It Raises Your Cholesterol Levels

If you struggle with high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend a low-fat diet and even have you cut out fats. While this may seem like a good thing, you need to make sure you still get enough fat in your diet. Fat and cholesterol actually work together in the body. When you reduce your fat intake, you reduce your cholesterol. And cholesterol actually plays an important role in your body!

Fat facts - A Study

Importance of Cholesterol

Cholesterol is necessary for your body to produce brain cells, hormones, and more. There are two types of cholesterol in the body. You have both low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in your body. HDL is commonly called “good cholesterol.” It actually keeps your arteries from clogging. 

The LDL is the “bad cholesterol” that doctors warn about. It contributes to the formation of plaque in the arteries that can lead to heart disease. However, it is not the primary cause of heart disease or other cardiovascular issues.

Does Fat Negatively Affect Your Health?

As you just read above, fat alone does not cause health issues. In fact, our bodies need fat to function properly. So, if fat really isn’t the cause of poor health, what is the cause? 

Low carb breakfast diet

Carbohydrates - The Real Culprit?

After conducting studies, some researchers discovered that fat and cholesterol aren’t the real culprits behind diet-related health issues. The real problem is increased triglycerides in the bloodstream due to over-consumption of carbohydrates. People who consume a high carbohydrate diet tend to have too many triglycerides in their bloodstream. When the body breaks down carbohydrates, the carbohydrates turn into sugars. 

How Can I Improve my Dietary Health And Avoid Heart Disease?

The best way to avoid health issues is to reduce the triglyceride content in the bloodstream. You can do this by reducing carbohydrates and increasing the healthy fats in your diet. 

Reduce Processed Foods and Sugars

Processed foods comprise about 60% of the typical American diet. You can find processed foods and sugars (empty carbs) in every grocery store today. After you eat these foods, you may initially feel fine. However, when you continue eating them, your body responds negatively. After your body processes what it needs from those foods, it turns the rest into triglycerides that sit in your bloodstream.

Eat A Clean Diet

If you have the choice between white bread and whole-grain bread, choose the whole-grain. Whole grains have more nutrients that your body can use. You can get healthy fats like Omega-3’s from salmon and grass-fed beef. Nuts and dark-leafy greens can provide high protein and iron for your diet. Citrus fruits also help reduce inflammation in the body. A good rule of thumb is to shop the edges of the grocery store more than the aisles. 

vegetable - low fat diet

Focus On A Balanced Diet!

If we change our thinking regarding cardiovascular health, we can help prevent disease in our bodies. The issue is not too much fat in our diet. The problem is excessive empty carb consumption and how our body processes those empty carbs. It’s time to concentrate on eating a balanced diet which includes more clean foods and avoiding processed ingredients.

For more information on the truth behind fat and our health, check out this brief video:

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