When I write about the evils of saturated fat, I am bombarded by high-fat advocates and keto-diet fans who insist that I’m all wet and don’t know what I’m talking about. They “inform” me that early studies on the association between saturated fat and atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries) were misleading, and they cite a number of reasons for this. In fairness, some of their reasons are on target. Regardless, the preponderance of evidence still warns about the dangers of saturated fat.
Even so, and because the typical high-fat diet advocate loves their double bacon cheeseburgers, fatty dairy products (especially cheese), and processed meats like sausage, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs, pastrami, etc., they are not willing to give them up. What’s more, they need to convince themselves that what they are doing not only does not contribute to heart disease, it’s healthy.
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. The reason that going with a high-fat diet can be helpful in some ways is not because you consume a lot of fat. On the contrary, it’s in spite of the high-fat consumption. Benefits are due directly to cutting back on unhealthy carbs like simple sugar products (sodas and sweets) and refined grains (white flour products).
The logic used by high-fat diet supporters goes something like this. Let’s assume you go to the New York Stock Exchange and buy a bunch of Stock “A” (high simple sugar stock) ,and it causes you to lose 90 percent of your money. Oops, that’s really bad! So, you learned your lesson and instead you buy a bunch of Stock “B” (high saturated fat stock). Stock “B” causes you to lose 80 percent of your money. That’s still really bad, but you erroneously conclude that Stock “B” is good because it’s not as bad as Stock “A.”
Anyone who looks at this objectively would have to conclude that both are really bad, even though one is somewhat worse than the other.
Let’s set aside the above arguments and shift gears to the latest findings about heart disease. Overwhelmingly, inflammation has moved to the forefront as promoting atherosclerosis and heart disease. Inflammation also is believed to promote diabetes, colorectal cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, psoriasis, acne and other skin conditions, bronchitis, chronic pain, etc.
With this in mind, what kind of diet is most guilty of stoking inflammation? Yep, you guessed it, diets loaded with saturated fat from red meat, fatty dairy products, and processed meat. That’s the worst diet, and a close second is diets loaded with simple sugar and white flour. Worst of all, the American diet is loaded with all of these horrible products.
What does this tell us? It tells us that if you give up simple sugar and white flour carbs (along with all the healthy fruits and vegetables), as you would on a high-fat diet, you will still continue to promote inflammation with your intake of red meat, fatty dairy products and processed meat.
Why does red meat, dairy, and processed meat promote inflammation? They contain several pro-inflammatory compounds besides saturated fat. There is arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid the body uses to make pro-inflammatory local hormones. Heme iron (found in meat, but not plants) also can be a problem because it increases oxidative stress in the body, causing formation of free radicals that can promote inflammation. There also are advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These are products in which glucose binds to either proteins or fats as a result of processing.
To date, many research studies have found a relationship between red meat intake and C-reactive protein (Crp), a marker in the blood that reflects increased inflammation. Studies that include processed meat show even higher levels of Crp.
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Now, regarding bad carbs, simple sugar and white flour also increase Crp, indicating increased inflammation due to an increase in AGEs. They also promote weight gain leading to insulin resistance. A recent study reported that when a group added 40 grams of simple sugar in a large can of soda per day to their diet, it increased Crp, body weight, insulin resistance and LDL-cholesterol significantly more than the control group not drinking the soda.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Arguments about what is a healthy diet should not be “either-or.” This means they should not be either high-fat or high-carbs. The answer to a healthy diet is avoiding pro-inflammatory foods like red meat, fatty dairy products, and processed meat, plus simple sugar and white flour products.
On the positive side, consume copious amounts of “selective” carbs (fruits and vegetables) every day, plus carefully selected whole grains. Add fish a few times a week, and occasional consumption of lean meat, chicken or turkey to reduce inflammation and promote good health. It’s really that simple, notwithstanding all the hoopla to the contrary.