Burning fat not always best option to improve nutrition

Vinny Vasquez

“Nutritional correctness” is a term I first heard from Dr. Michael R. Eades, best-selling author of “Protein Power.” But the term itself is not new, considering its appearance in a 1994 New York Times article to describe the removal of butter and egg yolks from a recipe to achieve nutritional correctness.

Nutritional correctness is the diet equivalent of being politically correct. If I told you that saturated fat and cholesterol are not the heart-clogging evils they’re made out to be, I would be displaying a massive lack of nutritional correctness. But that’s what I do, so let’s get cooking major controversy:

Myth #1: You must eat as indicated in “The Food Guide Pyramid.”

First released in 1992 by the USDA and “updated” and renamed to “MyPyramid” as recently as 2005, these series of guidelines send a simple message: Base your diet around grain products each day, and you’ll be “fine.” Finely overweight that is.

The truth is, if you are holding on to a few extra pounds, chances are those extra carbohydrates are the culprit. Not the extra eggs or steak, but those so dang convenient, cheap and delicious carbohydrates that are everywhere around us.

Myth #2: Fat makes you fat. Fat is evil.

As we learned in high school biology, fat has nine calories per gram, while protein and carbohydrates only have four each. On paper, if you reduce your fat intake, you’ll drastically reduce calories.

However, in the real world, it’s not that simple. Fat is more satisfying than carbs and can keep you full longer, so while that piece of bread may have 200 less total calories than the almonds (or bacon), in the long run, you’ll be hungry sooner and you’ll be eating more than you would have by keeping the fat, defeating the whole purpose.

Interestingly enough, substituting carbs with dietary fat (including saturated fat) will almost always results in drastic improvements in skin health, optimized hormonal production and lower incidents of acne.

Myth #3: Saturated and animal fat raises cholesterol and can cause heart disease.

That’s what the dogma indicates. In 1998, a review of 27 studies involving more than 150,000 subjects was published in the “Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.” Looking for a relationship between diets and their effect on the heart, researchers found no difference in animal fat intake between those with heart disease and those without.

Started in 1948, the Framingham Study is a famous government-sponsored study on heart disease that hoped to investigate all the factors that might contribute to heart disease, while following men and women of certain ages from the town of Framingham, Mass. An early result published in 1961 showed cholesterol level “abnormalities” to increase the risk of heart disease. A follow-up study 16 years later found very little differences between the cholesterol levels of those who suffered heart attacks and those who didn’t. Contrary to what the researchers expected, almost half of those suffering heart attacks actually had low cholesterol levels.

Still going strong, in 2002 the Framinghham Study embarked in a new phase with the enrollment of a third generation of participants-the grandchildren of the original subjects.

Results from all three generations still fail to indicate a clear and direct correlation between high cholesterol levels and increased risks of heart disease. ?

If your main concern has always been your levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and LDL (“bad” cholesterol), congratulations, you are on the right track. The Framinghan Study determined in 1988 that high levels of HDL cholesterol reduce the risk of death, while a 2006 study published in the “American Journal of Cardiology” reported that LDL levels only matter in relation to HDL levels.

In women particularly, high cholesterol levels are not a risk factor for heart disease. A French study published in 1989 concluded that women with high cholesterol lived longer, and those with low levels had a mortality rate five times higher. Further analysis conducted on studies involving women and cholesterol have led researchers to conclude that having low cholesterol is more dangerous than having high cholesterol. Finally, regarding all those cholesterol-lowering medications that at least one of your family members is probably taking, in 2003, an analysis of 44 trials involving 10,000 patients over 15 years was published in the “Journal of Cardiology.”

Researchers found the same death rate between those taking cholesterol-lowering drug and those taking absolutely nothing. Despite major controversy over these results, statins remain the best-selling drugs in the world, with yearly sales exceeding $13 billion, a statistic that attests to the tremendous effect a combination of uneducated media, misinformed physicians and powerful pharmaceuticals companies can have on our population.