Dr. Christiane Northrup M.D. wrote on her Facebook wall
“I want to shout this from the rooftops these days. FAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU FAT! And there is no evidence that it does! Stop the low fat dieting. It simply doesn’t work. Start eating yummy fats like avocados, ground flax and flax oil, coconut oil, black sesame tahini, and even butter. The real culprit is sugar in all its many guises. Thoughts? Comments?”
Oh, she got thoughts and comments alright. 1053 Likes, 272 Comments, Wow!
She gets to be “right” since no single “thing” is the cause of obesity. But is being “right” doing her readers justice? Will her readers interpret her statement to mean that eating higher fat is just fine and has almost no impact on their weight? I’d bet the farm that some will. And that’s where I depart from giving Dr. Northrup a “Harumph!” that 1053 others did.
Here’s what I envision when Dr. Northrup makes her statement with the “likes” she gets.
But what I want to say to her is this “But what about this?”
One of the most significant influences of diet composition is
on voluntary energy intake. There is a very consistent finding
that when given ad libitum access to food, subjects eat more
total energy when the fat content of the diet is ≥40% vs. ≤20%
(3–5). This may be because of the higher energy density of
high-fat diets (6–9).
Source: Obesity (2008) 16, 64–69. doi:10.1038/oby.2007.31
What the above quote from the research study means in English is when people can eat whatever they want they consume more calories overall if their fat intake is above 40% of their total compared to when it’s under 20%.
So what were the conclusions of the researchers from the above study?
These results show that the amount of fat in the diet can affect
voluntary energy intake and can be important for body weight
regulation. The study extends previous research (7–9) by
showing that even within the typical range of consumption in
western diets, total ad libitum energy intake increases as the
fat content of the diet increases. Reducing dietary fat in the
population should reduce total energy intake.
In summary, these results are consistent with the notion that
decreasing dietary fat even within the ranges typically consumed
in Western diets could decrease the risk of consuming
excess energy and could be an important factor in countering
the gradual weight gain seen in the population. Whatever dietary
advice is provided to the public must be accompanied by
advice for engaging in regular physical activity. Based on these
results, a low-fat diet combined with regular physical activity
could be the foundation for a lifestyle that helps prevent excessive
END OF RESEARCH QUOTE
In the 80s we were sold on the idea that we should reduce fat intake to be leaner. The reality of that 20-year experiment is we’re fatter than we were 20 years ago even though thousands of low-fat and fat-free “foods” were introduced. Why put “foods” in quotes? Well it’s because many of the new “foods” no longer resemble whatever it is they started as. They’ve been processed beyond recognition but their fat, carb and protein numbers on the label look pretty decent oftentimes. So I guess they are “foods” but they just really aren’t the kinds of foods we want to consume a lot of. And for some they should consume NONE of.
The reality is people consume too much of anything that tells the brain it’s calorie-dense and will sustain you through the famine that’s coming. Of course there is no famine coming but our brains still don’t understand that. And the overeating is almost always worse if the foods have been refined and processed.
The “D” of DHAO is Biological DRIVE to calorie-dense foods. We all have it. Every single one of us. It’s hard-wired into all of us. Millions of years through even a few hundred years ago this “D” protected us from starving and made sure there were enough of us alive and healthy to mate so the species could be continued. Now? It pretty much works against us so we have to be very conscious of the drive and not cling onto one idea alone as our savior for getting to and living at a healthy weight.
I propose, for the most part as you all know, a lower-fat nutritionally-fit lifestyle. I typically recommend fat intake less than 30 percent but I like a range between 10 and 30 percent on average.
Leanness Lifestyle also recommends, as the USDA does, that no more than 10% of your total calories be from saturated sources. So if you consume 1500 calories per day I’d like to see no more than 150 of those calories from saturated sources (about 1 Tablespoon).
Remember, saturated fat is usually hard at room temperature, and is commonly found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats. They are also found in some vegetable oils — coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.
Alright, so Dr. Northrup gets a bunch of Harumphs from trumpeting the “fat doesn’t make you fat” mantra. Others get a bunch of harumphs from trumpeting the “reduce fat to get skinny and healthy” mantra.
What’s the real deal? Do we eat high fat? Do we eat low fat? High carb? Low carb? High protein? Low protein? All of these are the wrong questions in my opinion so we’re going to get the wrong answer every time.
I won’t get into the absolute nitty gritty details in this one article but the old mantra of “a calorie is a calorie” is being refuted more and more and more. There is a growing body of research out there which supportive of the idea that not all calories are created equal.
People can gain weight eating the same calories per day if they eat all their calories in one meal versus multiple meals. A calorie is NOT a calorie.
People can gain weight if they consume too many high-fructose corn syrup based products even if the calories per day are the same for those who do not. A calorie is not a calorie.
People can gain weight if the foods they eat are refined compared to the same calories consumed from fresh and unrefined sources. A calorie is not a calorie.
People can gain weight from consuming too many corn-based products compared to those consuming the same calories with less or no corn-based products. A calorie is not a calorie.
There’s no reason to reinvent the Leanness Lifestyle nutritional wheel. That’s the good news. What I will add, however, is an even stronger pitch to all of us that we consume fewer and fewer packaged, boxed, canned and fast-convenience foods.
Can you get away eating more dietary fat if your total fat comes from all-natural sources? Yes
Can you get away with eating 45-50% carb rather than 30% carb if your carb sources are from unprocessed veggies first and fruits secondarily with a tiny bit of barely-processed whole grains to boot? Yes
With Leanness Lifestyle I care less about getting harumphs based on single-idea nutritional talking points and care more about creating real education so that we can really understand WHY we do what we do first, then WHAT the ideal behaviors will be and then HOW we can adapt our neanderthal minds around the idea of doing what needs to be done to effectively create the leaner, healthier bodies we so badly want and deserve.
When in doubt … if you are really confused … if you are just NOT sure what direction to turn with all the confusing data out there … do this:
1. Make half your plate unprocessed veggies
2. Make a fourth of your plate unprocessed fruit
3. Make the other fourth of your plate low-processed lean protein mostly from animal flesh.
4. Sparingly, on the side take your pick from one of the following:
A. Half-cup of some low-fat or fat-free dairy (if you aren’t allergic or intolerant)
B. Half-cup of some low-processed whole grains and starches that still resemble what they were before they were yanked off the bush, tree or out of the ground.
C. Half-cup of low-processed nuts
Fat just might make you fat. Carbs just might make you fat. Proteins just might make you fat. It all depends. The biggest “depends” that I want you to take home from this article is the form the food takes – how processed and refined it is. Knock the processed foods WAY down – only good things can happen.
Dr. Christiane Northrup M.D. wrote on her Facebook wall