My answer would be yes and no.
My recent research into fats in our diet has shown up a number of misconceptions, many of which are perpetuated by organisations such as The Heart Foundation and Nutrition Australia. These 'facts' are then transposed down the line by nutritionists, then journalists and they turn up in our magazines, online articles and newspapers. Basically, these organisations are saying that eating fat contributes to heart disease and obesity.
Advice such as 'cut the fat off your meat', buy low fat yoghurt', 'use low fat milk' etc leads people to believe that all fat is bad for you.
Has this fat phobia made a difference to the general population's health? Not as far as I can see. People are still overweight and sick. Diseases such as diet related diabetes are rampant.
In an article from Raisin-Hell (Is the Heart Foundation's Advice Killing us?), the following information should make us think:
The AusDiab (Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle) study has been monitoring the health of a random selection of 11,000 Australian adults since 2000. The results of the 12 year follow-up were published this week. (mid-August 2013)
The update shows that the number of us with Type II Diabetes has increased by 41%; that obesity has increased by 22%; that almost half of us now have chronically high blood pressure (this is despite a 30% increase in the use of medication to control it); and that the average 25 year old gained 7 kg on the scales and 7 cm round the waist; all in just over a decade.
So what is the solution? All my research tells me that we must consume fat in our diet. Fats provide energy and are vital as building blocks for cell membranes and for hormones and hormone like substances. Simplified, cholesterol comes from (mostly animal) fat. Cholesterol is a type of sterol, sterols are hormones.
Fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K are only made available to the body by a process that uses dietary fats.
Sally Fallon, in her book, "Nourishing Traditions. The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats" (I know, it's a great title!) discusses a theory that began to be espoused around the 1950's known as the 'lipid (lipid = fancy name for fat/oil) hyphothesis'. The theory, developed by researcher Ancel Keys, stated that there was a direct link between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet and the incidence of coronary heart disease.
Fallon comments that since this research was first published, there have been numerous subsequent researchers that pointed out the flaws in his data and conclusions. But it was all too late. The vegetable oil and food processing industries promoted this original theory since they would be beneficiaries of the move away from competing traditional foods.
Fallon also discusses Nathan Pritikin's low fat diet craze. Those who managed to stick to it for any length of time suffered from a variety of health problems with many suffering depression and experiencing vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The other complication, believe it or not, was weight gain!!
Pritikin himself commited suicide when he realised his low fat diet could not cure him of leukaemia.
The Heart Foundation in Australia endorses a low fat diet, encouraging the use of margarine instead of butter, polyunsaturated vegetable oil instead of saturated animal fats and low fat everything. Yet, the Heart Foundation tick applies to many highly processed sugary empty calorie foods (eg. Milo Cereal with 27% refined sugar) seen in the supermarkets today.
In fact, during my research, I've come across a petition from wellness practitioners asking the Heart Foundation to stop promoting these sugar laden high calorie cereals. Find the article here. An excerpt from the webpage petition says the following:
"Honestly it just seems absolutely ridiculous that a health authority like the Heart Foundation whom many of the public trust and listen to, advise to eat a diet made up of mostly processed carbohydrates in the form of cereal, bread and pasta, consume margarine and toxic oils, processed sugar filled foods filled with additives, preservatives, colours and flavours and which are devoid of essential nutrients and products that contain aspartame. How can they honestly say that this will protect people against cardiovascular disease?"
The article goes on to state that researchers, nutritionists and authors have all come to the conclusion that eating fats from natural healthy sources such as grass feed animals, free range eggs etc will actually contribute to protecting against heart disease.
Sally Fallon, Dr Sandra Cabot, Mary Enig and Cyndi O'Meara are amongst these authors and researchers. These are my go to authors when I want to find out the facts about nutrition.
Here's a link to an excellent article written by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon on the Weston A Price (a dentist and nutrition researcher) Foundation website: The Skinny on Fats
The 'yes' part of my answer to the question on whether eating fat makes you fat, comes about from eating the wrong sort of fats coupled with the way in which the fats are presented. For example, if you eat deep fried sugary doughnuts regularly, then yes, you will gain weight, from the trans fats in the hydrogenated vegetable oil used for frying and the sugar contained in the doughnuts!
If you eat a lot of highly processed foods with added fat, then yes, you will get fat.
But, if your diet consists of wholefoods, including whole eggs, full fat dairy products, free range red meat with a little fat, free range pork with some of the fat, free range chicken with the skin and you use monounsaturated oils such as olive, avocado or macadamia in your dressing, butter on your vegetables and coconut oil, duck fat, lard, butter and tallow for cooking, then, no, you shouldn't get fat. You will find that you won't consume such large portions as you will feel fuller and more satisfied with a diet rich in good fats in combination with whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains and legumes (prepared correctly).
In contrast to a low fat (usually highly processed and high sugar) diet, you will be much healthier and have great skin and hair.
If you're still with me after all that reading, congratulations! Will you be changing the way you look at fats?
Please leave a comment below, I'm interested to hear your views.