Fats vs Carbs

Fats, carbs and protein are the three macro nutritional categories for food.  These three basic categories are what make up the calories or energy in our food. Two of these categories are essential, meaning that we must have them in our diet to survive—the two we must have are fat and protein. Protein is made up of amino acids and we need those to make up the proteins in our bodies. There are 21 essential amino acids that are used to make up the proteins in our bodies. We cannot make these amino acids, so we must get them in our diets. The same is true for some fats—we must get them in our diet. Recent dietary recommendations have even suggested removing dietary recommendations on total fat in our diet.

Fat is a very simple word for a very complex group of molecules. Most people do not realize that there are certain fats, called essential fatty acids or EFAs that we must get in our diet. These EFAs are poly-unsaturated fats usually referred to as omega-6 and omega-3. Both omega-6 and omega-3 are essential, but we need to have them in equal quantities in our cells. High ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 are associated with many of the health problems we have in the US. It is hard to avoid high ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 given the typical food choices we have in America or in so called Western diets.

There are other fats which, even if they are not essential, they are beneficial. Some of these non-essential fats are fats that our body can make—like cholesterol or oleic acid. Oleic acid is a mono-unsaturated fat found in nuts, olive oil and even in real butter. Oleic acid is considered a beneficial fat and is found in nuts, olive oil and avocados; however these foods also come with high levels of omega-6 and can raise our omega-6/3 ratio if we eat them too often. Too much cholesterol is harmful, but our bodies will still make it even if we already have too much if we overeat. Our bodies can use any fat for energy, but there are some fats that can be processed as ketones and do not produce free radicals that can damage our cells, like glucose does. Medium chain triglycerides like those found in coconut oil can be processed as ketones.

Dieticians often tell us that saturated fats are bad, but not all saturated fats are the same. Coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, but most of that saturated fat is in the form of short and medium chain triglycerides that can be processed as ketones and provide energy without the damaging free radicals we get from carbs. There was a recent article I read that suggested high levels of a particular saturated fat (palmitic acid) in our cells can cause cell death. It also pointed out that the presence of oleic acid can prevent the cell death. We don’t necessarily get the high levels of palmitic acid in our cells directly from foods we eat—we also make it from carbs as a way to store fat when we eat too much.

Carbs, or carbohydrates, are the one basic category of food that is not essential. We use carbs as a basic source of energy, but we can use fats or protein for energy as well. When we eat more carbs than we burn in our activities, our body converts that excess energy to fat and stores it. Carbs come in two basic categories, sugars and starches. Starches have to be broken down into sugars to be used in our bodies. When our bodies burn sugar (as glucose or fructose) for energy, it produces free radicals that can damage our cells. Our bodies are very efficient at digesting carbs and converting them into sugars to get them into our bloodstream. Insulin then forces our cells take the sugar out of the blood. When our cells keep getting too much sugar they become resistant to insulin and we can develop diabetes!

With refined carb foods like sugar and bleached flour, we don’t get any additional benefits of vitamins and mineral we get with fruits and veggies. When we eat refined carbs, we don’t get much of anything but the calories out of the food, but most natural foods high in carbohydrates do come with at least some beneficial nutrition. So, it is best to get most of the carbs we have in our diet from fruits and veggies that provide many additional benefits like vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and even including cancer fighting compounds like those found in most cruciferous vegetables. Processed foods are often high in refined starches and oils high in omega-6 or trans- fats that are not beneficial or even harmful.

My book, the Oil Change Diet has many healthy recipes and will teach you the sources of omega-6 and omega-3 and how to balance your essential fats.

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Cholesterol and the Oil Change Diet

I have been following this diet now for just over 2 years. Prior to this diet I was on statins (lipitor). My total cholesterol on statins was low, down in the 150 mg/dl range, but so was my HDL, the good cholesterol–it was in the mid to upper 30s, so my ratio was still over 4. That was not as bad as it was before I started taking statins when my ratio was often over 5. Since starting the diet, I have had 2 blood test that measured cholesterol and HDL. My total cholesterol has been between 170 and 175 and my HDL was 45 and 49, giving me a ratio of just over 3. A ratio of 3 is considered healthy. In the more than 30 years that I have been getting annual cholesterol measurements, I have never had HDL levels above 40 mg/dl until these last 2 measurements. I had tried all the things that are suppose to raise HDL, moderate alcohol, nuts, and exercise, but nothing seemed to be able to improve the level very much if at all.

Prior to starting this diet, I had avoided whole eggs, real butter, beef, bacon and kept my intake of cheese low. Now, I avoid omega-6 and eat eggs that are high in omega-3. I quit taking statins 2 years ago and now my cholesterol profile is about as good as it has ever been. Since I first started this diet, I have reduced my intake of carbs even more than I did initially. I think the combination of lower carbs and better omega-6.3 ratio is what improved my cholesterol profile.

I have learned a lot while researching the biochemistry of lipids, especially the omega-6 and omega-3 lipids, but also cholesterol and various fatty acids. One of the big surprises to me was the fact that in many cases, the high cholesterol in our blood does not come from dietary intake of cholesterol, it is being made by our own cells. That is what the statins block–they stop our cells from making cholesterol by blocking an enzyme called HMGCoA. The major reason our cells are making this excess cholesterol is because they have too much energy–in other words, we are eating too much! More specifically, we are eating too many carbs! That is right–carbs become cholesterol! Many of us increased our intake of carbs when we adopted a low fat diet to reduce cholesterol and it had little or no effect and may have even increased our cholesterol levels.

That is why exercise does help–as long as we burn all the carbs we eat, our cells will not have excess energy to turn into cholesterol. When we eat carbs, our body is very efficient at digesting them–digestion of carbs starts in the mouth. Very few carbs make it through our digestive system without being taken up–sometimes fats do, but not carbs. That is why the Atkins diet works. Carbs get turned into glucose and fructose so they can be carried to cells in the blood, insulin enables or even forces or cells to take up the glucose. When our cells have excess energy, it takes higher insulin levels to make them take the glucose out of the blood–that leads to insulin resistance.

There can be many reasons for high cholesterol levels in our blood– genes can play a big part as well as dietary cholesterol, excess carbs or overeating and sedentary lifestyles. High cholesterol is associated with heart disease, but our essential fatty acid  ratio, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is far more likely to cause the heart disease and increase the probability of cholesterol causing plaque formation in our arteries even if we have “normal” cholesterol levels–55% of the people admitted to hospitals with heart attacks have “normal” cholesterol levels. If you can get your omega-6/3 ratio down to 1:1, you can reduce the probability of heart attacks by 75%, however, even a little reduction in your omega-6/3 ratio will reduce the probability of heart attack some.

We should all be more concerned about our omega-6/3 ratio than our cholesterol level–including our doctors!

Mayo Clinic Proceedings: There is no scientific foundation to past or present U.S. Dietary Guidelines ?

Biochemistry is a much better way to understand how we can improve our diet. Knowing that Omega-6 causes inflammation while omega-3 reduces it. Measuring the ratio in our blood and comparing that to medical problems. Understanding how carbs become cholesterol when we eat more carbs than we burn. Understanding epigenetics and nutrigenentcs–how different foods and compounds influence processes in our bodies are much more reliable than dietary studies. Dietary studies even if you have accurate intake data are way too complex–thousands of compounds to try to account for–presence and absence–on top of the genetic differences we all have. When you look at the original paper by Dr Lands that shows the correlation between tissue ratios of omega-6 and omega-3 and heart death rates in various cultures–with a correlation of 0.99 and then understand the biochemistry of omega-6 and omega-3–it is clear that our dietary guidelines are seriously flawed. They refuse to recognize any harm coming from omega-6 and continue to push a diet that is loaded with it. That is why most Americans have omega-6/3 ratios in excess of 10 to 1 when it should be 1 to 1. It is why we have the highest heart disease rate in the world! As well as many of our other medical problems.

ClinicalNews.Org

Public Release: 9-Jun-2015

Are the data underlying the US dietary guidelines flawed?

Opposing views regarding the validity of widely-cited what we eat in America and NHANES dietary data presented in Mayo Clinic Proceedings

Elsevier Health Sciences

Rochester, MN, June 9, 2015 – U.S. government-issued dietary recommendations continue to evolve over time. In a special article published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, an obesity theorist and cardiovascular health researchers claim that the main source of dietary information used by the U.S. Government’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) is scientifically flawed because the underlying data are primarily informed by memory-based dietary assessment methods (M-BMs) (eg, interviews and surveys). In an editorial response nutrition experts suggest that the purported flaws are well-appreciated by nutritional researchers and can be mitigated by using multiple data sources, resulting in valid data.

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