Debunking fitness & nutrition myths one blog post at a time seems like a fairly arduous process, so I’m not going to delve too deep in any one of these posts into the research which has led me to my beliefs, just trust me that after spending a couple years of my life in college & a lot of hours reading other peoples research journals I know what I’m talking about. My goal here is to give you some food for thought so that you can do your own research if you wish & form your own beliefs based on what information you uncover.
I’m going to start these with the very basic myths that I encounter, many of you will know better than to believe these, however I think it’s better if we start with the basics so that when we get into the more advanced stuff we’re all on the same page.
So without further adieu, myth 1:
Eating Fat Makes You Fat
I know, a pretty easy one to start off with, but there are still people out there who believe that “low fat” diets are a plausible way to lose body fat and/or get healthier.
Lets first look at the basics of what fat is:
- Fat is a nutrient
- It can be solid or liquid
- It can be classified as animal fat or plant fat depending on its source
- It contains 9 calories of energy per gram
- Fat is essential for the processing of vitamins A,D,E, & K as well as being the starting point for hormones such as testosterone.
So what’s the problem with fat?
Well I can only assume that from an aesthetics point of view the 9 calories per gram part is what originally put most some uneducated dieters off.
Why? Well because protein & carbohydrates both contain a measly 4 calories per gram when consumed, less than half of the amount you consume via fat and we all know that calories are the enemy, right?
Wait, no, they’re not.
Calories are essential in order to live life, if you don’t consume enough calories your body ceases to function properly (it really is that simple, think of petrol in your car if this is confusing).
Of course an excess of unused calories will be stored as adipose tissue (unsightly body fat), however when trying to cut down on calories it is much wiser to cut down on the calories coming from non-essential sources rather than cut down on the compounds your body actually needs.
If you would like an analogy of this think of a household that is struggling to meet their budget, it makes much more sense to pay the electricity bill than the sky tv bill. Fat is the electricity of this analogy, it is multi functional within the body. In this case we can consider carbohydrates to be the sky tv, it serves one function in the body only – energy, however carbohydrates are absolutely non essential to the human body apart from miniscule amount that is needed to maintain brain function (and even then the bodys stored glycogen & the process of gluconeogenesis act as a failsafe when eating virtually no carbs)
So to conclude: you need fat, you don’t need carbs, if you want to cut down calories so you can look better you can afford to cut down on carbs long before you can afford to take in less fat.
What if you just want to live a longer, healthier life:
Fat & Coronary Heart Disease:
In 1953 Ancel Keys published data to support his hypothesis that a diet high in fat increased blood cholesterol which in turn increased the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Several governments were convinced by the study & began to accept it as their ethos when it came to healthy eating policy.
The problem with the study however was that Keys had cherry picked which data he chose to publish; he collected data from 22 countries yet only chose to represent 6 of these on the graph, he chose to ignore data from countries where diets were high in fat yet instances of CHD were low (as well as the inverse).
When taking all of the countries into account there seems to be SOME legitimacy in Keys hypothesis, however this doesn’t account for the other dietary habits of the population reviewed.
When looking at isolated populations that eat a high amount of fat (both saturated & unsaturated) yet eat a relatively low amount of carbohydrate there are generally less instances of CHD.
The take home message from this is that correlation does not equal causation, if they were then this would be perfectly logical: “As ice cream sales increase, the rate of drowning deaths increases sharply. Therefore, ice cream consumption causes drowning.” Of course we know that is complete nonsense, and yet we believe that compounds we have been eating since the time of our evolution before the emergence of processed foods & sugars are damaging to us, all because Ancel Keys didn’t want his hypothesis to be proven wrong
Food for thought, eh?
As always, if you have any questions about the things discussed in this blog don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below, I shall do my best to answer them.
Until next time take care of yourselves,