Not all fats are created equal

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For more than a generation, fat was a dirty word. But that message didn't work; we just gained more weight. (WLS)

For more than a generation, fat was a dirty word. Nutritionists and dieticians urged us to ban it whenever we could. But that message didn't work; we just gained more weight. Now, food experts are telling us not all fats are bad.

For six years, Lore Koch loved her life helping school children in Sierra Leone. But every day when she came home, things changed.

"I got depressed actually for quite a while and I just started eating a lot. And that was part of the stress and depression I think," Koch said.

Her stress eating led to an obesity diagnosis and diabetes. Like many of us, she thought all fat was bad, until nutritionist Lori Brizee set her straight.

"Well I think I wanted to cut it out altogether but then Lori gave me some options of some things I liked," Koch said.

"We need fat. We have to have essential fatty acids to meet our basic nutrient needs," Brizee, MS RDN and certified diabetes expert at Central Oregon Nutrition Consultants, said.

Brizee says some polyunsaturated fats can actually lower cholesterol in our system and monounsaturated fats, like those found in avocados, have been shown to help reduce heart disease.

Brizee points out the "all fat is bad" campaign that lasted for years, failed.

"When people went really low fat, um they just continued to gain weight. They ate more sugar and refined carbohydrates. So people would buy a fat-free cookie thinking they were doing something really good for themselves,"Brizee said.

The nutrition plan Brizee came up with for Koch cut out soda pops and includes healthy fats from avocado, fish and nuts; and it's working. Koch dropped 35 pounds in five months and is going for more.

One set of fats to avoid: trans fats. Eating foods rich in trans fats like stick margarine increases the amount of "bad" cholesterol in our bloodstream. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that for every two percent of calories from trans fats, the risk of heart disease jumps by almost 25 percent.

STORY BACKGROUND: For more than a generation, fat was considered a dirty word. Nutritionists and dieticians urged us to ban it whenever we could, but that message didn't work, we just gained more weight. Now we know not all fats are bad, some can even help us lose weight. The percentage of fat in the American diet has declined from 45 percent in the 1960s to about 33 percent in the late 1990s, yet obesity continues to rise. Researchers looked at 53 studies with more than 68,000 participants, each study lasting at least one year. They found that low-carbohydrate diets led to significantly greater weight loss than did low-fat diets. In addition, low-fat diets didn't outperform higher-fat diets when it came to weight loss.

BAN SUGAR, NOT FAT: Sugar is quickly replacing fat as the new dietary dirty word as more studies show sugary drinks increase weight gain and obesity (Source: In fact, dieticians now say stay away from foods labeled low-fat because they make up for the taste by adding sugar and sodium, two ingredients that are less healthy for you than fat. The answer for a healthy diet isn't to cut out the fat, it's to replace bad fats with the good ones that promote health and well-being. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are "good" fats. They can be found in avocados, olives, nuts, peanut butter, sunflower and sesame seeds and fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, play a vital role in memory, problem-solving abilities as well as emotional health. You can find Omega-3 in fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines. (Source:

SO WHAT'S THE BEST DIET?: While many "diets" are fads meant to be followed for short periods of time, research shows that low-carbohydrate diets and Mediterranean diets are better than low-fat diets as long as they incorporate healthy, high-quality foods. The study followed more than 300 people and found that after two years, weight loss and maintenance were better for low-carb and Mediterranean-style diets as compared to low-fat diets. A 2013 study on the effects of a Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular disease in high-risk patients showed that that the diet reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events over four years of follow-up.

For More Information, Contact:
Lori Brizee, MS RDN
Related Topics:
healthhealthdietfattrans fats

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