Don’t Fear the Fat—Cut the Carbs
For decades food and public health experts have gotten it wrong. They taught us to vilify saturated fat. You know; the kind found in most animal products. While it’s true that mono- and polyunsaturated fats from plants are more likely to be heart-healthy, it’s also evidently true that saturated fat was never the culprit driving the obesity crisis. Nor is it implicated in heart disease risk.
That dubious distinction goes, instead, to refined carbohydrates and trans fatty acids. Trans fats are a type of toxic synthetic “shortening”. Thankfully, they’ve been mostly eliminated from the food supply. But carbs are everywhere, in abundance. Think sugar. White potatoes. White flour. Essentially, refined, simple carbohydrates in any form.
Diets that substitute more carbs, and/or omega-6 fatty acids, in place of saturated fat may actually increase the risk of coronary heart and cardiovascular diseases. That’s because omega-6 fatty acids—present in common plant-based cooking oils such as soybean, corn and canola oil—are pro-inflammatory. It’s ill-advised to increase one’s consumption of omega-6s without also increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Those are present primarily in fatty cold-water fish; such as tuna and salmon (or fish oil supplements), or plant foods; such as flaxseed (or flaxseed oil), seaweed, and walnuts (or walnut oil).
Nor can exercise make up for the sins of the carbs, according to new research published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Our calorie-dense diets are causing more harm than physical inactivity, smoking, and drinking combined, say researchers. "Sugar calories promote fat storage and hunger. Fat calories induce fullness or satiation," they write.
Not even elite athletes can outrun the harm done by a diet laced with sugar and excess carbs. Cutting back on carbs and added sugars should be the number one health goal. It should be a primary strategy for treating type 2 diabetes, too. Even in the absence of any measurable weight loss, they say, cutting down on carbs improves numerous aspects of metabolic health. "It's time to wind back the harms caused by the junk food industry's public relations machinery. Let's bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity. You can't outrun a bad diet," they conclude.
Malhotra, T. Noakes, S. Phinney. It is time to bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity: you cannot outrun a bad diet. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-094911