Need To Lower Cholesterol? Add More Fat!

What??….

If you had to do a double-take when reading the title, let me assure you it was correct. For those who have been working on eliminating fat from the diet because you thought ANY type of fat was bad for you, you probably need to keep reading. You could be losing out on the health benefits that some of those healthier fats provide.

It has been shown that a lower intake of saturated fat, combined with a higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, is linked to lower rates of heart disease. And according to the American Heart Association (AHA), consuming polyunsaturated fats may reduce cholesterol levels and heart disease risk as much as statins!

One risk factor for cardiovascular disease is overconsumption of saturated fats, which primarily becomes a concern when it goes hand-in-hand with other poor dietary choices (too much carbohydrates, not enough vegetables, etc.). Saturated fats are found in meat, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils such as coconut and palm. As a smaller part of a balanced and healthy diet, they typically will not be so detrimental. But for someone already dealing with issues like elevated cholesterol and LDL’s, diabetes or high levels of inflammation, it would generally be wise to keep them from the diet.

Both Sides Of The Coin

In an advisory published June 15 in the journal Circulation, the AHA is recommending that polyunsaturated fats be substituted in the diet to replace saturated fats, since the latter is known to increase levels of LDLs in the blood. They state that many clinical trials have shown that incorporating polyunsaturated vegetable oils instead of saturated fats reduced heart disease by about 30%, which is similar to the effect seen with statin drugs. That’s a pretty good effect, especially for those not wanting to be on a statin drug in the first place. The problem with that though is the choice of oils recommended.

Polyunsaturated fats from corn, soybean and peanut oils were used in many of the studies. However, these are considered the “less healthy” of the oils because of their higher proportion of omega-6’s (which are pro-inflammatory) to the omega-3’s, which have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Also, in the United Stated today, the majority of corn, soybean and canola crops are said to be GMO-based and for those who prefer not to have their food genetically modified, that becomes another reason to avoid those particular oils. And don’t be fooled by the oils at the store labeled “vegetable oil” (which sounds healthy) because most of those are primarily soybean and corn oil.

Better sources of fats and oils will come from the monounsaturated variety (avocados, olives, nuts) and the polyunsaturated type (nuts, seeds, salmon, flax). Coconut oil has become very popular over the past few years but it has shown to increase LDL cholesterol levels in the same way as other saturated fats do, so it needs to be consumed wisely. It is a great oil to cook with (as is grapeseed and avocado oils) since it isn’t easily damaged by the heat like olive oil can be. And as part of an overall healthy diet, it wouldn’t be problematic to have it as an addition. They key is knowing if it is right for you or not.

If you’re not sure which way to go, or if you need help figuring out what dietary approach is best for your particular body and health goals, I encourage you to come see one of our doctors for a free consultation. By understanding your individual health needs and challenges, and knowing where your blood values of cholesterol and sugar lie, we can help you make an informed decision on what type of nutrition plan to follow.

Eating doesn’t have to be “fat free” to enjoy the benefits of good health. And you just may be in need of adding more fats to your diet to get you where you really need to be!