Swedish researchers did a study in 2008 where they asked young, healthy people to eat at least two fast food meals per day and not exercise for four weeks. The goal was to raise their body weight 10 to 15% rapidly and see what effect that had on them. The results of that study were startling, and they’ve held up to further testing.
The researchers were expecting the fat to raise bad cholesterol levels. Instead: saturated fat boosted the good cholesterol. That’s the cholesterol that actually protects you from disease and even lifestyle choices like smoking. Some of the subjects did experience the beginning of liver damage. But not because of the fat: because of the sugar in the cokes. This may finally explain the “French paradox”:
For nearly two decades, scientists have wrestled to explain how the French can consume a diet rich in fats — from abundant butter, cream, cheese and meat — yet have generally low levels of heart disease and hypertension.
“The study showed that the increase in saturated fat correlated with the increase in healthy cholesterol,” he said.
And don’t we all have at least one ancestor who ate eggs, real butter, cheese and/or meat three times a day and lived to be eighty or more with no heart problems or diabetes or any of the other things fat supposedly causes? This study may finally explain how that happened, and why many of us who dutifully switched to margarine and low-fat meats and low-fat everything had worse health to show for it.
The other important thing to consider here is that low-fat processed foods often contain more sugar than their regular-fat counterparts. Fat provides a lot of flavor, and it takes a lot of sugar to replace that flavor. Even foods you don’t think of as sweet – like sour cream – can get a couple of grams of sugar added to every serving when they’re made “low fat.” A couple of grams doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you eat low-fat salad dressings, sour creams, breads, etc., a “couple of grams” here and there adds up, and we find ourselves eating more sugar than we realize.
If you really want in-depth information about this, check out this article written by an OB-GYN nurse practitioner. For years, she believed the myth that eating fat was bad, and couldn’t understand why both she and her patients were getting less healthy on low fat diets instead of more healthy. She breaks down precisely which fats are the best ones and explains the incorrect thinking behind a lot of food myths that even doctors still believe. She also explains just why we need fat and can’t resist our cravings for it. It’s pretty complex stuff, but worth a read – or at least a scan to the headings that interest you.
It’s interesting to note that most of the later press reports of the Swedish study ignored the sugar issue and blamed fat exclusively for the problems the people in the study experienced, even though that’s totally the opposite of what the study actually said. That’s really unfortunate for people who are looking for the truth. One has to wonder if it protects the profits of a booming weight loss/health industry that’s been telling us to eat their processed foods instead of natural fats for years.