Those who follow me on Facebook saw me litter my page this week with a bunch of screen shots from Dr. Mark Hyman’s “The Fat Summit.” I also talk about it in the post below.
Dr. Hyman, best-selling author of health and nutrition books, particularly around carbs, fat and blood sugar, and Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, interviewed more than 30 nutrition xperts on whether it’s healthy for us to be eating fat, including sat fat from meat.
His expert panel included top people in the medical, scientific and lifestyle sciences. Just to name a few: Deepak Chopra, MD, Chris Kressler, MS, Aseem Malotra, MD, Gary Taubes, David Ludwig, MD, PhD, Walter Willett, MD, Christiane Northrup, MD, Michael Roizen, MD, Neal Barnard, MD.
Hyman, and most of his experts, advocate a diet high in healthy fat – nuts, seeds, olive and coconut oil, avocado, eggs, full fat dairy and some meat. And no refined carbohydrates. I should say right now that’s my own personal bias, as well and how I eat.
Most of his experts validate it’s not a matter of calories in, calories out we we’ve always heard or eat less, move more. It is the quality of those calories and how your body uses them.
Interestingly, the very friendly and charismatic Hyman, talked frequently about how contradictory the information is coming at Americans about nutrition and how difficult it is for the average person to know what’s right and what’s wrong. No doubt. So I found it funny that even among his guests, not all agreed with each other.
Very briefly: all agree healthy fat is better than bad fat. Healthy fat is better than refined carbohydrates. The disagreement is whether we should really eat a lot of healthy fat, like neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, who pours olive oil on his morning eggs. Or should we severely limit healthy fat too like Dr.s Dean Ornish and Joel Fuhrman do who think the benefit doesn’t outweigh the calories consumed. Yes, pun.
For me, having diabetes, eating a diet plentiful with healthy fat and low in refined carbs is a no-brainer. Carbs raise blood sugar. Refined carbs spike blood sugar. Higher blood sugar requires more insulin. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. The more of it circulating in your blood stream, the more it’s causing calories to be stored – in the liver as fat. Voila, you gain weight, mostly putting it around your belly, and you end up with fatty liver disease to boot. By the way, most people with Type 2 diabetes also have fatty liver disease and don’t know it.
Dr. Hyman is also popularizing the notion that goes a step beyond “food is medicine” to “food is information.” Food tells your body how to act, respond, behave; it guides your metabolic response, tells your body what hormones to stimulate and influences what genes get turned on. That’s why a more nutritious diet decreases the risk of all dis-eases.
Here were some of the take-aways from the conference mid-way. It continues another three days:
- The typical American diet: 55% of calories come from processed food (white flour, sugar, cola, cookies…), 30% of calories come from animal products, 5-7% from unrefined plant foods (vegetables)
- Food is more powerful at lowering blood pressure than mediation
- Low fat vegans don’t live as long as those who eat more nuts and seeds
- If you want to lower your A1C, eat more fat and less carbs
- A1C levels of 5.6% and higher show brain shrinkage on MRIs
- When the brain burns fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates it does so more efficiently and without creating as many free radicals
- Insulin keeps fat locked in our fat cells preventing it from getting burned or used. Eating fat does the opposite.
- Obesity kills more people than smoking and alcoholism and being sedentary combined.
- Soda consumption is the number one contribution to obesity in America
- The process of getting fat makes us overeat
- Most of our cows today eat corn, which they aren’t designed to eat but corn fattens them quickly inflaming their fat cells. Eating them fattens us and contributes to our body’s inflammation.
- In a statin study, 96% of people who already had a heart attack saw no benefit, 1 in 83 had their lifespan extended, 1 in 39 were helped to prevent a repeat heart attack, 10% suffered muscle damage
- The food industry is giving at least 50 million dollars a year to politicians
- Since 1948 Procter & Gamble has been a major funder of the American Heart Association. You do the math.
- Media no longer has time to do investigative research on food plus their news outlets are usually owned by corporations that have an agenda
One thing not to forget as has become a catch phrase in diabetes, “Your diabetes may vary.” As Hyman stressed, we are all individuals. Different things may work better for different individuals. So whether you should eat a lot of healthy fat, moderate amounts or very little, may differ for you. The best way to know is to try the variations on yourself.
For me eating a liberal amount of healthy fat – nuts, seeds, tahini, avocado, coconut and olive oil, eggs and some cheese and Greek yogurt, and grilled chicken and fish with occasional red meat, tons of vegetables and little to no refined carb – works extremely well in keeping my weight down and my blood sugar from spiking. I haven’t counted a calorie for a decade. And I feel good.
Of course we also don’t live in a food vacuum. I walk an hour most days, drink wine with dinner most nights, drink a lot of water and no sugary beverages and have the genes I was born with.
I don’t think there’s any easy answer to this nutritional debate. But I do think we’re lucky more information is coming out that we can all access.
So take the daily contradictory news headlines about food and what the government says and ads say, even I hate to say it but must, what the behind-the-curve organizations like the Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association say, with a grain – or a plantation full – of salt.
As I mentioned in the list, the American Heart Association gets an enormous amount of funding from Procter & Gamble. See a hidden agenda?
People can always make studies and statistics say what they want them to say and food lobbyists are a powerful force.
How can we dismiss that 40 plus years or so ago, when we were all pushed to stop eating fat and eat more carbs, Americans got fatter than ever?