Good Fat, Bad Fat: What’s the Difference?

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By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) The age of low-fat diet recommendations may be coming to a close. Is it time to break out the bacon and butter?

According to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, consuming higher amounts of unsaturated fats was associated with lower mortality. However, higher consumption of saturated and trans fats was linked with higher mortality compared with the same number of calories from carbohydrates. The highlight was that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats delivered substantial health benefits.

The study included 126,233 participants, from two large long-term studies, that were followed for more than thirty years and details how dietary fats impact health. Based on this observation, the researchers believe that replacing saturated fats like butter, lard and the fat in red meat with unsaturated fats from plant-based foods may provide substantial health benefits. Olive oil is one plant-based example that has shown health benefits in many population studies.

“Our bodies need fats. The best sources are not oils but whole foods like olives, avocados, nuts, seeds, fish, grass-fed meats and even whole free-range eggs. Fats are needed for proper absorption of critical vitamins. Our bodies can use fat for energy and the right kind of fat is actually better for us than too many refined carbohydrates that typically replace them,” according to Tom Griesel, co-author of TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust.

The role of fats and their effects on health has been debated for the last 60 years. The pendulum has swung in both directions. It seems the latest studies have been focusing on the health effects of specific types of fat in the diet. Natural fats, especially unsaturated fats, are health promoting. Different types of dietary fat had different associations with mortality. The researchers found high dietary amounts of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats were associated lower overall mortality compared with the same number of calories from carbohydrates.

The health effects of fats depended on how people replaced them. People who changed to unsaturated fats from saturated fats had lower risk of death during the study period. They also had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and respiratory disease.

Griesel adds, “Eliminating trans fat and replacing most saturated fat with unsaturated fats, particularly when the fats come from eating whole foods, will have significant health benefits. However, reducing overall fat intake with carbohydrates has been a health disaster because the carbohydrates tend to be refined starches and sugar that end up having a similar adverse effect on mortality risk as bad fats.”

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