After three and a half decades of low-fat dieting, the sad truth is that Americans are fatter than ever.
And women have been hurt the most. Let me explain.
In my experience, men are less concerned about following health advice, especially about the food they eat. But women take care of their family’s health.
They track diet advice to try to make the best decisions they can for themselves and the people they love.
At the same time, women are under constant pressure to lose weight and stay slim. I’m sure you’ve noticed the relentless TV and magazine diet ads, and images of glamorous stick-thin models. Men don’t get bombarded with the same marketing messages.
So as a woman, you try to keep an attractive figure. And you try to follow the best nutrition advice you can.
But here’s the tragedy…
The low-fat diet advice most women get from the government, doctors and the news media couldn’t be more WRONG.
In fact, low-fat foods are far more fattening than regular food.
You see, when food companies take fat out of their products, they replace it with carbohydrates like sugar to add back some of the flavor lost with the fat. Compared with regular foods, these low-fat varieties have much more carbohydrate.
And carbs – not fat – are the most fattening foods per calorie.
You see, carbs raise your blood sugar levels. They cause your body to secrete insulin. This hormone in turn triggers your liver to produce more triglycerides and store body fat.
In other words, insulin drives your body into fat storage mode.
Fat and protein don’t have the same effect. They don’t raise your blood sugar or trigger the release of insulin. Your body doesn’t build up fat.
I’ve seen this in my own patients here at the Wellness Center. And clinical studies back me up.
The University of Cincinnati compared low-fat and low-carb dieters. The low-carb dieters were allowed to eat as much food as they wanted. The other group was limited to small amounts of low-fat food. Even though the low-fat group strictly controlled how much they ate, the “eat-as-much-as-you-want” low-carb group still lost more weight and more body fat.1
One reason people on a higher fat diet don’t gain weight is that fat satisfies their appetite. They naturally feel full and eat less.
But people following standard diet advice think food labeled “low-fat” is healthy. They tend to overeat it. Researchers proved it with people who watched TV while snacking on bags of granola. One bag was labeled, “Low-fat Rocky Mountain Granola.” The other said “Regular Rocky Mountain Granola.”
People who chose the low-fat version ate 32% more than those who ate the regular granola.2
All of those extra low-fat carbs just spike insulin. And you pack on the pounds.
As an anti-aging doctor, I’m really concerned about this bad diet advice because as women add more weight, they also age faster.
That’s because excess fat has been linked to shorter telomeres.3 These biological clocks at the ends of your DNA strands are very sensitive to oxidative stress and inflammation. Excess fat increases oxidative stress and inflammation, which shortens telomeres.
And the more overweight you are, the shorter your telomeres are.4 Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences studied women over 30.
They discovered that as the women got fatter, their telomeres got shorter. And the shorter their telomeres, the faster they aged.5
For more than 15 years now, I’ve been warning about the risks of low-fat diets. My files are full of patients who lost fat – and kept it off – by eating more fat.
But it has to be the right kind of fat. Sadly, mainstream diet advice lumps all fats together – good and bad.
Bad fats are the kind that our primal ancestors wouldn’t recognize. They include fats from animals raised on factory farms, man-made vegetable oils, and especially trans-fats. You should avoid those completely.
In addition, you need to get enough good fats. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are essential to life. Your heart and brain depend on them. But you have to get them in the right balance.
For most human history, we ate foods with omega-6s and omega-3s in the ratio of about 2:1.
Our primal ancestors got their omega-6s from seeds and nuts. They had abundant supplies of omega-3s from pastured animals and wild-caught fish. They got the perfect 2:1 ratio.
But a low-fat diet destroys that ratio. The natural levels of omega-3s in your food drop off, while omega-6 fats from modern industrial foods go through the roof.
Today, the typical ratio is about 20:1. In other words, the average American eats 10 times as much omega-6 as is healthy. The main sources of these omega-6 fats are vegetable oils, processed grains, and grain-fed beef.
That imbalance causes inflammation, which is at the root of so many health concerns today. It leads to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and much more.
A return to a primal diet will help get your good fats back into balance…
- Start by only eating fats that occur naturally in clean animal products. I’m talking about meat, eggs, and full-fat dairy products from animals that are pasture-raised. I also mean fatty cold-water fish like wild-caught salmon.
- Be sure to also include good fats in your diet from nuts. Walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts and cashews are great choices. These are real guilt-free snacks. They’ll help you feel full so you won’t overeat. And, you won’t get fat.
- And one more very important thing: Studies link high omega-3 levels with healthier telomeres.6 Omega-3s also activate telomerase, the enzyme that helps rebuild your telomeres.7
By eating more healthy fats, you won’t just be losing weight. You’ll also look and feel younger for longer.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1. Bonnie J. “A randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie restricted low fat diet.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2003 Vol. 88, No. 4 1617-1623.
2. Wansink, B. Don’t Be Tricked by Low-fat Labels. Mar 9, 2007.
3. Buxton J, Walters R, Visvikis-Siest S, Meyre D, Froguel P, Blakemore AI. “Childhood obesity is associated with shorter leukocyte telomere length.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(5):1500-5.
4. Müezzinler A, Zaineddin AK, Brenner H. “Body mass index and leukocyte telomere length in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Obes Rev. 2014;15(3):192-201.
5. Kim S, et al. “Obesity and weight gain in adulthood and telomere length.” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009;18(3):816-20.
6. Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids, oxidative stress, and leukocyte telomere length: A randomized controlled trial.” Brain Behav Immun. 2013; 28: 16–24.
7. Ornish, Dr. Dean, et al. “Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: A pilot study.” The Lancet Oncology. 2008; Vol. 9, No. 11, P1048-1057.