Fat: why it’s not the devil after all!

By Marie-Antoinette Issa |

IQS - Healthy Fat

We sort the fact from fiction to answer all your questions about fat.

With so much conflicting information on this controversial macronutrient, it’s time to chew the fatty facts with our Keys2words expert cardiologist, Keri Maas.  

Fact 1: The low-fat argument is flawed.

The theory that fat is the foe originated from research conducted by in the 1950s and 1960s. Keys was desperately looking for the cause of heart disease after ex-President Eisenhower’s heart attack, and it was perhaps this desperation that led to his finding that saturated fat was the root cause.

The flaws in Key’s study have : he only selected countries that would prove his hypothesis; only reported on a small portion of the participants he studied; and he inaccurately interpreted correlation as causation.

Even at the time, many scientists called out these flaws. And more recent studies have shown that in fact eating natural fats comes with a , while .   

However, the damage was done. Heart disease was a big concern in the U.S. so Key’s flawed theory took off, and played no small part in the rise of the low-fat food movement.

With fat suddenly the devil, food manufacturers scrambled to remove it from their products. But of course by removing the fat they removed a lot of the taste and texture, so to compensate they added lots of sugar. Since then, obesity levels have risen significantly, while removing fat had no effect on the levels of heart disease – in fact it seems to have . Can you see the pattern yet?

Fact 2: Fat doesn’t (necessarily) make you fat.

Although the idea that fat makes you fat seems logical enough, it’s not as simple as that. While we may have been fed the mantra that “we are what we eat”, more accurately “we are how we metabolise what we eat.”

Fat fills us up. It isn’t addictive (unlike fructose). And it fuels our metabolism.

According to IQS expert Keri Maas, cardiac physiologist at Auckland University, “Many people have been scared of using oils and nuts due to their high energy content but good fats actually slow down the release of glucose into your blood stream, meaning you stay full for longer.”

That’s why “consuming adequate fat can even assist with weight management,” she says.

Obviously it’s important to remember that fat is an extremely concentrated source of energy and excessive consumption of calories through fat (even the good stuff) can lead to weight gain!

Fact 3: We favour some fats over others.

As well as weight control, the right fats are the ones which help you absorb essential vitamins like D, E, K and A; develop your brain; maintain healthy skin and even manage your mood.

There are three kinds of theses “good fats”, and all three can be obtained from eating wholefoods.

  1.  Saturated fats (our favourites) are crucial for absorbing vitamins, calcium uptake, immune function, and cell membrane structure. They are the kind in butter, coconut oil and animal fats.
  1. Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, and turn solid when they are chilled. They include the ones found in olive oil, and to maintain their health benefits, should not be heated.
  1. Polyunsaturated fats, are found in fish and nuts. Importantly however, polyunsaturated fats should be consumed with caution. That’s because, according to Keri, “within the polyunsaturated category, there are two types of fat – the omega 3s and the omega 6s. “A common dietary error, that can have significant health consequences, is the regular overconsumption of omega 6 fats compared to how many omega 3s you are eating,” Keri says.  “You want to focus on eating fewer omega 6-rich foods.”

And the baddies?

Keri says the most concerning are the trans fats. These are created when some types of polyunsaturated fats are damaged due to heat.  “Trans fats are found mainly in processed foods, especially deep-fried foods, processed cakes, biscuits and muesli bars and foods with long shelf lives,” she says.

Fact 4: You can find all these fats if you JERF.

Our Keys2words takes a fat-inclusive approach to eating. While we don’t advocate seven consecutive days of bacon for breakfast, we’re definitely not fat-phobes and encourage moderate amounts of a variety of good fats. Think a couple of eggs (yolks and all), a few slices of avocado on toast or a good glug of olive oil in your salad dressing. The truth is when you just eat real food, you stop fearing food – fat included.

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