A new study spanning over 7 years and following 135,000 people from 18 countries is suggesting that low-fat diets could be far more harmful then previously thought
Most major health organizations have been saying for decades to eat more whole grains and limit your fat intake. The idea is that a diet rich in things like butter, beef and eggs is directly linked to obesity, heart disease, stroke and shorter lifespans.
However, the last few years have seen many nutritionists and high level fitness trainers propose the idea that a more “Paleo” diet is truly the most optimal diet for humans. Countless diets have sprung up advocating a lifestyle more akin to our caveman ancestors.
The basic premise is that our bodies are designed to essentially run on fat far more efficiently then carbohydrates and that our ancestors had no access to wheat, bread and processed carbs and thus, adapted to thrive and live off primarily meat, nuts and vegetables.
So which line of thinking is correct? There hasn’t been a lot of hard data supporting higher fat diets are healthier.
Two new reports recently published are suggesting that proponents of “paleo” diets might finally have the hard data to support their ideas.
Both studies published in The Lancet, led by researchers at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences is seemingly confirming that a low fat diet actually increases chances of disease and lowers your lifespan.
The study from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) followed more than 135,000 people from 18 different countries. They followed low-income, middle-income and high-income regions and studied the diet of the participants for 7 and a half years.
“Surprisingly they found that fatal cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart failure were all decreased measurably in those that enjoyed a diet higher in fat. The research and data on dietary fats found that they are not associated with major cardiovascular disease. In fact, higher fat consumption was associated with lower over all mortality.”
Specifically they wanted to compare the health outcomes of people whose diets derived energy from eating animal fats, butter, avocado, etc to more recent and traditional carbohydrate based sources like breads, corn, pasta etc.
Surprisingly they found that fatal cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart failure were all decreased measurably in those that enjoyed a diet higher in fat. The research and data on dietary fats found that they are not associated with major cardiovascular disease. In fact – higher fat consumption was associated with lower over all mortality. This was observed for all major types of fats (saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and mono unsaturated fats)
Total fat and individual types of fat were not associated with risk of heart attacks or death due to cardiovascular disease and saturated fats were actually associated with a lower risk of stroke.
Most surprisingly was how harmful the opposite diet was to overall lifespans. The study found that a low-fat diet raised the risk of early death by almost 25%.
“A decrease in fat intake automatically led to an increase in carbohydrate consumption and our findings may explain why certain populations such as South Asians, who do not consume much fat but consume a lot of carbohydrates, have higher mortality rates,” says Mahshid Dehghan, the lead author for the study.
There’s no “perfect” diet that will fit every human’s genetics. There is simply too many variables like blood type, ancestry, food allergies but clearly eating healthy fats are much healthier then what a lot of health professionals have been saying for decades.
Try to fill your fridge with organic grass fed beef, eggs, butter from grass fed cows, wild caught salmon, and avocados. Also add nutrient dense nuts and legumes like black beans, almonds, walnuts and cashews which are also chalk full of healthy fats that your body can convert to energy.
Remember that the backbone of any healthy diet is going to include tons of vegetables. Lots of them. If yours serious about trying to optimize your diet its always going to start by eating lots of different types of vegetables. Different colors. Variety is key.
Also, if you believe that humans are more healthy living like their caveman ancestors, you cant forget the other factors.
These people were also going to bed as soon as the sun went down and rising when it came up. They lived outdoors and never wore shoes. The missing link that some people forget is the level of daily exercise these people endured. If you think you can double down on the steak, burgers and butter and lay on the couch and live a sedentary lifestyle then you’re really missing the point. Optimal diets are designed for optimal lifestyles. So enjoy that steak but remember to not skip the gym.