Are Low-Fat Diets Good or Bad?

With the 1980’s came big hair, spandex, and of course – the low-fat diet craze! Back then, the prevailing wisdom was that if you eat fat, you will get fat. This couldn’t be further from the truth, so let’s explore why this is the case.

At first glance, the argument that if you eat too much fat, you’ll gain too much fat seems logical. After all, a gram of fat has over double the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrates. So it seems to make sense that eating too much fat would, well…make you fat!

When you look deeper, though, you find that our bodies require fat. And not just specific parts of our bodies, either. Every part of your body – every cell and nerve – contains fat at some level and in some form.

Think of your hair, nails and skin – how dried out would you look if you didn’t nourish these with the fats that they need to function? How would your face look if it didn’t have a layer of fat beneath your skin to soften your lines and facial features?

Your brain needs fat. In fact, your brain is made up of over one-half fat – no fat, no thinking. And the synapses that fire to create brain function are also supported by fat. If you’re having problems concentrating, maybe you’re eating too little fat!

The real truth is that sugar and other simple carbs create the fat-storing response by triggering insulin production, and insulin in effect tells the brain to store fat to use as energy. Therefore, too much sugar = too much fat storage.

There are specific dangers to eating a diet too low in fat, as well. For instance, many vitamins need fat in order to be absorbed into the body. Vitamins A, E, D and K are examples of these. These vitamins are simply not able to be utilized if there isn’t enough fat for them. This can lead to vitamin deficiencies and related health problems. (A deficiency of vitamin D alone can be contributed to depression, heart disease, fertility issues, and soft bones and teeth.)

Is a low-fat diet the answer to successful weight loss. Not necessarily, says Dr. Mark Hyman. In this weeks UltraWellness podcast, he reviews cutting edge research that reveals the true causes of weight gain, and explains the right type of foods to eat for lasting weight loss.

A side effect of eating a low-fat diet is that you tend to choose highly processed foods to take the place of the taste, mouth feel, and feel of fullness you get by eating fat. So you eat so-called healthy, low-fat choices rather than the whole foods – fat included – that your body truly needs. And these processed foods contain a multitude of preservatives, artificial ingredients, and chemicals that simply are not a good choice for anyone, on any diet or way-of-eating.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can go and consume as much fat as possible. Keep your meats lean, and eat fatty, cold-water fish. Limit saturated fat, but also remember to enjoy the foods that you eat. And eating saturated fats once in a while will not harm you in the slightest.

After all we’ve been told about how beneficial a low-fat diet is in the past, the scientific truth is that we all need fat in every cell of our bodies, every day, in order to achieve and maintain our wonderful health and well-being.