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Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat. Sugar Does.

by | Oct 10, 2017 | Food & Nutrition

It’s counter-intuitive, and for most of us, it’s going to take a long time to get used to the conclusions of scientific analyses: Healthy fats in our diet don’t make us fat.

Furthermore, they are not directly linked to heart disease, according to one British Medical Journal study, among others1. You would think fat in the diet would turn to fat on the body, but this is where our reasoning goes wrong: It doesn’t.

While excess fat on the body can lead to various illnesses and shorten our lifespan, it does not come directly from the fat in our diets. Sugar is the main culprit.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA),2 sugar triggers our fat-storing hormone. This, in turn, increases inflammation in the body as well as our risk for cardiovascular disease, dementia, and heart attack.

U.S. Dietary Guidelines on Fat:

Since 1980, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines (followed by many countries around the world) have been promoting a low-fat diet.

However, Americans have never been more overweight and sick than they are today. In 1960 1 in 7 Americans was obese. Today 1 in 3 Americans is obese.

In 1960 1 in 100 Americans had Type 2 Diabetes. Today 1 out of 10 Americans and almost 1 out of 4 teenagers in the U.S. was pre-diabetic or had Type 2 Diabetes.

In fact, you can trace the beginning of the obesity epidemic in the US to the beginning of the marketing of low-fat and 0% products. So what happened?

Low -fat diets leave people feeling unfulfilled so consumers replaced the fat in their diets with carbohydrates, a known cause of weight gain, particularly belly fat.

Secondly, as so many products had zero fat and low calories, people thought they could eat more of them than they should, leading to over-eating.

However, in 2015, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, in a spectacular reversal, stated that dietary cholesterol is no longer a concern. The Committee no longer recommends limiting dietary cholesterol or healthy dietary fats, apart from saturated fat3.

What are the different types of dietary fats?

This is confusing, to be sure. Not all fat is created equal:

there are trans fats, which are used by industrial food companies because they are cheap and don’t spoil quickly (for example, those used in solid margarine in stick-form).

However, trans fats have been shown to be dangerous for your health4.

there are also monounsaturated fats,

polyunsaturated fats,

saturated fats and


Healthy forms of fat are now known to be needed for maintaining brain and cardiovascular health.

In the fields of Psychiatry5 and Cardiology6 Omega 3 supplementation is recommended.

So what are the fats that are good for you? Here is a quick list:

Healthy fats to add to your diet are:

Plant-derived fats generally contain healthy fats: olive, walnut, coconut, almond, hazelnut, and pistachio oils.

Foods such as avocados, nuts, and seeds are healthy sources of fats.

Animal-derived fats found in grass-fed organic beef, wild salmon, anchovies, sardines, eggs, organic butter from grass-fed cows are also healthy.

Unhealthy fats to avoid are:

refined vegetable oils used in industrially prepared foods such as corn, canola, and safflower oils

any trans fats (used in stick or hard margarine).


Though it may seem counter-intuitive, for most people low-fat diets are a mistake.

To learn more on this subject, here are 2 books I recommend from

  1. Dr. Mark Hyman,”Eat Fat, Get Thin” ( Little, Brown and Company; February 2016)
  2. Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Fat for Fuel” (Hay House, Inc.; May 2017)


  1. Aseem Malhotra, et al.“Observations from the heart: saturated fat is not the major issue”, BMJ, October 2013; 347:f6340.
  2. Quanhe Yang, PhD, et al. “Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults”, JAMA Intern Med, published online February 03, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 –2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at
  4. U.S.FDA:
  5. US National Institutes of Health: Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Major Depression,
  6. American Heart Association: Kris-Etherton PM, Harris WS, Appel LJ, et al. “Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease.” Circulation.  2002; 106:2747-2757

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