Obesity Epidemic Requires a Paradigm Shift

The obesity epidemic requires a paradigm shift. Several medical myths stand in the way of taking the most effective steps to safely help patients lose weight. The most important myth relates to saturated fat. Saturated fat consumption does not contribute to cardiovascular disease. This must be understood and accepted by the medical community so that sound advice can be given.

A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.( Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):497-9. )

In fact, as early as 2004, Mozaffarian et. al. investigated the influence of diet on atherosclerotic progression in postmenopausal women with quantitative angiography and found that:

In multivariate analyses, a higher saturated fat intake was associated with a smaller decline in mean minimal coronary diameter (P = 0.001) and less progression of coronary stenosis (P = 0.002) during follow-up. (Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Nov;80(5):1175-84)

In addition, they further found that:

Carbohydrate intake was positively associated with atherosclerotic progression (P = 0.001), particularly when the glycemic index was high.

            Polyunsaturated fat intake was positively associated with progression when replacing other fats (P = 0.04)

These findings should come as no surprise given the basic science of atherosclerosis. Oxidized and glycated LDL stimulate macrophages to become foam cells initiating the creation of plaque. Cellular receptors that allow macrophages to ingest oxidized LDL are specific for oxidized LDL. These receptors do not recognize normal LDL to a significant degree.

Holovet et. al. studied the ability of oxidized LDL versus the Global Risk Factor Assessment Score (GRAS) to detect coronary artery disease. GRAS identified coronary artery disease 49% of the time, while oxidized LDL was correct 82% of the time.

In a large prospective study, Meisinger et al found that plasma oxidized LDL was the strongest predictor of CHD events when compared to conventional lipoprotein risk assessment and other risk factors for CHD.

Polyunsaturated fats are easily oxidized, saturated fats are not. It is the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in the membrane of LDL particles that become oxidized and then initiate the cascade of inflammatory events leading to atherosclerosis. The major source of these PUFA in the American diet are “vegetable oils” (corn oil, soy oil etc.)  rich in the omega-6 PUFA, linoleic acid.

So why is this important to understand relative to the obesity epidemic? Because the most effective weight loss “diet” is arguably a low carbohydrate/high fat (LCHF) diet. This approach does not require calorie counting. This approach has been demonstrated to spontaneously reduce caloric intake whereas low fat diets require calorie counting and result in persistent hunger.

When compared to low fat calorie restricted diets  the LCHF approach has been equal or superior with respect to weight loss, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure reduction, and lipid profiles whenever these parameters have been measured.

But LCHF has not been embraced by the medical community due to the perceived dangers of saturated fat consumption and a low-fat ideology that lacks legitimate scientific evidence.

Once we dispel the mythology of saturated fat, the safety and efficacy of LCHF will be more readily accepted by physicians, the media and the lay public.

The nutritional villains in our society are highly refined and easily oxidized “vegetable oils” filled with pro-inflammatory omega-6 PUFA (linoleic acid), added sugar (especially HFCS) so prevalent in most processed foods and soft drinks, and the nutrient poor wasted calories of processed flour foods. These three culprits are responsible for our epidemics of obesity, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. These three conspire together to generate fatty liver disease, atherosclerotic plaque, and chronic inflammation.

When a LCHF approach is combined with  eating only fresh whole foods and avoiding added sugar, refined flour, and unhealthy  “vegetable oils”, we have the perfect recipe for our obesity epidemic.

The following references provide examples of studies that have demonstrated the efficacy, safety and  usual superiority of the LCHF  approach to weight loss.

Dig Dis Sci. 2007 Feb;52(2):589-93. Epub 2007 Jan 12. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a pilot study. Tendler D, Lin S, Yancy WS Jr, Mavropoulos J, Sylvestre P, Rockey DC Westman EC.

One thought on “Obesity Epidemic Requires a Paradigm Shift

  1. Suzanne LeBeau BSN RN ONC

    Very good article! Dietary sugars such as sucralose, honey, and fructose are known to contribute to the development of atherosclerotic heart disease, hypertension, and PVD (Prasad & Dhar, 2014). Low fat foods often taste horrible, so manufacturers fill the void with sugars, and elevated blood sugar levels are a key cause of oxidative stress (Malhotra, 2013). It is this state of constant stress that throws the body into the constant inflammatory state that is frequently associated with the metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
    Malhotra, A. (2013). Saturated fat is not the major issue. BMJ : British Medical Journal (Online),
    347 doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/10.1136/bmj.f6340
    Prasad, K., & Dhar, I. (2014). Oxidative Stress as a Mechanism of Added Sugar-Induced
    Cardiovascular Disease. The International Journal of Angiology : Official Publication of the
    International College of Angiology, Inc, 23(4), 217–226. http://doi.org/10.1055/s-0034-


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