How We Got It Wrong About Fat!

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Interviewer: Doctor, can you help clear up the whole fat issue? And I think, you mentioned it earlier, but, you know, everything for the last 20 years has been low fat and I remember a few years ago the headlines were that they actually made movie theater popcorn with coconut oil and that's why we're all fat.

Mary T. Newport, MD: Right.

Interviewer: Because of how terrible coconut oil is and now, all of a sudden, there's a big switch.

Dr. Newport: Mm-hmm.

Interviewer: Can you clear up that whole misunderstanding?

Dr. Newport: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The whole lipid theory of heart disease is why, you know, we've been pushed for decades to, basically, have a low-fat diet, but when you have a low-fat diet, you end up with a high carbohydrate diet because that's most likely what you're going to substitute for in the food.

Yeah, coconut oil was given a bad rap right around that time because... one reason being it was a big competitor of Crisco. Yeah, which is hydrogenated, you know, type fat. Crisco was created so it would have a long shelf life and coconut oil has a long shelf life. It can last about two years on the shelf.

Interviewer: Okay.

Dr. Newport: And it was called artery-clogging fat and this was really based on some animal studies in which they used hydrogenated coconut oil, which any hydrogenated fat will raise your cholesterol levels and they were mostly in animals. Some of them there was Omega-3 deficiency. Coconut oil doesn't contain any Omega-3, so you need to substitute or supplement with Omega-3 fatty acids. Eat fish and that kind of thing. If you take exclusively coconut oil.

But Omega-3 deficiency will also cause the cholesterol to increase and the diets that they put the man or animals or when they studied them with coconut oil was deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids, as well. So, there have really been quite a few studies, but mostly small studies looking whether coconut oil does or does not raise cholesterol and, basically, if you have non-hydrogenated coconut oil, if the cholesterol goes up at all, it's usually the HDL cholesterol.

And I find that very interesting because statins they reduce LDL cholesterol, but they don't increase HDL cholesterol. HDL is the good cholesterol and that's actually found to be possibly more important as far as coronary artery disease, raising good cholesterol than lowering LDL cholesterol.

And, so, the coconut oil is something that actually could raise HDL cholesterol. Their looking for medications to HDL and it's like, well, you don't need a medication. There's a food that will do it.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Dr. Newport: The lipid hypothesis was based on some studies by Ancel Keys and he kind of cherry-picked, I think it was, seven countries out of 22 that were actually available they had data on, but he handpicked them and it looked like the higher the fat in the diet, the more likely you were to die of coronary artery disease. But others at that time after this was published, they criticized him and they showed that if you put all 22 countries in they were scattered all over the place. There was no straight line showing that this was true and then, you know, some countries like, apparently, France has a very high fat diet, but very low rate of coronary artery disease, you know, at this time in history and, you know, those kind of, you know, it was contradicted at the time, but his was the work that was paid attention to, basically, by the government and other people that tell us what we should eat and coconut oil was chastised.

Interviewer: Yeah.



For decades there has been plenty of differences of opinion when it comes to the role fats play in our overall health. Different fats certainly have different effects on our body. Dr. Mary Newport discusses some reasons fats got a bad rap and how coconut oil, in particular, was demonized. Watch this and find out how we got it wrong about fat!

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