For decades fat has been labeled as the enemy when it comes to obesity, diabetes and a whole range of health problems. In the medical world it has been blamed for the deposition of plaques in arteries and the cause of high cholesterol, and in the fitness world it is deemed the reason why people gain weight or are unable to lose it.
Food companies have been quick to jump on the bandwagon, labelling their foods as “99% fat free” in an attempt to lure people into buying their products. And health and nutrition authorities have been more than happy to support them, claiming a fat-free diet is a healthy diet. Shockingly, however, this could not be further from the truth. Although this is now widespread knowledge in scientific communities, government agencies and multinational food corporations are reluctant to allow the truths to be revealed, for fear of a reduced profit margin.
As more and more research becomes available, what we are actually seeing is that carbohydrates, not fats, may be responsible for a lot of our health and obesity problems. To understand this in more detail we must first explain exactly what it is we mean when we talk about fats and carbohydrates.
The human body obtains energy in the form of two main substances. Fat is the more dense of these substances (providing 9 calories per gram) whereas carbohydrate, which is made of sugars, is less dense (providing 4 calories per gram). Both of these substances are necessary when providing the body with energy, and fat actually has even more important roles, such as making up the cells that comprise our brain and nervous system.
When we refer to someone as overweight, what we are actually commenting on is their increase in body fat stores and it is for this assumed direct association that fat has been given such a bad name. The truth of the matter, however, is that the destiny of the fats and carbohydrates we ingest is far from this simple.
When we eat carbohydrate we break it down into sugar and this gets rapidly absorbed into the blood. The body cannot use this sugar all at once, so instead decides to store it away for use at a later date. A lot of this gets stored in muscles as glycogen, but as soon as these stored become full (this doesn’t take long), the body actually stores this carbohydrate as fat. The excess sugar also puts a huge strain on the pancreas, eventually causing disruption of the whole insulin system, which can in turn lead to diabetes.
When we eat fat this is also absorbed into the bloodstream, and if not used is also stored as fat but at no greater rate than carbohydrate. In fact if we eat carbohydrate with fat, the sugars force the fat to be stored in areas such as our stomach, buttocks and internal organs instead of being used.
Although we see pictures of arteries clogged with fat, this is not a direct result of a high fat intake, and sugar is just as much, if not more, to blame. The story of cholesterol is also not as simple as being caused by ingesting fats, and excess carbohydrates play a big role.
Next time you look at foods that claim to be healthy because they are “99% fat-free” have a look at the label and what you will realize is that they are actually almost 99% sugar! Companies are more than aware of this deceit and freely admit in their inner circles that it is a marketing ploy to increase sales.
Fat, like all the essential nutrients we need, is actually very important to maintaining our health, and should not be looked upon as something to be avoided completely. Carbohydrate is equally as important in a healthy diet, however the source of this carbohydrate does play a big role (click for further information).
In order to stay healthy and maintain a steady bodyweight, a balanced diet should comprise of healthy amounts of fat, carbohydrate and protein. The Paleo Diet is a prime example. The situation can change when it comes to losing weight but far better results can be achieved by reducing the carbohydrate intake as opposed to the fat (read to learn more).