If you're like most people, the word “fat” will not elicit a positive response from you, and it certainly isn't something you'd want to add to your diet—it's more likely that you'd want to remove it. However, more people are deciding to adopt diets that are low in carbohydrates and high in fat, something that may seem a little off-putting and even paradoxical to the notion of healthy nutrition. If you're confused about why anyone would want to try a diet that is seemingly detrimental to good health, you're not alone. Let's take a closer look at the reasons why certain people are turning to high-fat diets to improve their nutrition, and find out the facts behind these beliefs.
What is a High-Fat Diet?
A high-fat diet is self-explanatory for the most part, comprised of increasing your intake of dietary fats with the exception of trans fats. Diets high in fat are typically accompanied by a drastically reduced carbohydrate intake. Food sources of unsaturated fat—like fish, nuts and olive oil—are often a staple in these types of diets. However, those who follow high-fat diets are typically proponents of including more saturated fat in the diet as well, including foods like cheese, butter, red meat and eggs.
What Makes a High-Fat Diet Appealing?
One of the selling points of a high-fat diet is based on the idea that a carb reduction can lower insulin levels and prevent blood sugar spikes, which can be contributors to diabetes, heart disease, weight gain and obesity. A high-fat intake, which typically also equates to high-protein, promotes satiety and is likely to be more filling than carbs, which can often amplify hunger and encourage weight gain. In addition, eating high-fat foods and putting a tight restriction on carbs forces your body to metabolize ketones instead, which in combination with balanced insulin levels may contribute to weight loss. Besides the possibility of losing weight, high-fat diets may be enticing to athletes who wish to improve athletic performance. The foundation of this notion is that burning fat—instead of carbs—as fuel may provide higher energy levels.
What Does Research Say?
The long-held belief that all dietary fat is bad for you and needs to be cut from your diet as much as possible may not be true. A study published in 2014 in the Annals of Internal Medicine followed a group of participants to determine what effects a low-fat diet and a low-carb diet had on weight and cardiovascular risk factors. None of the participants had heart disease or diabetes, and they were divided into two groups based on the diets. At the end of the year-long study, the results showed that those on the high-fat, low-carb diet exhibited more weight loss and heart disease risk factor reduction than those on the low-fat diet. Additionally, those on the high-fat, low-carb diet lost weight from body fat as opposed to those on the low-fat diet who lost weight from muscle.
What Are the Risks of High-Fat Diets?
While high-fat diets may offer some promise in terms of encouraging weight loss and possibly even reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, there are also risks involved with adopting such a diet. Adhering to a high-fat diet for the purpose of losing weight may only be effective for the short-term, around six months; there has not been enough research to determine whether it's safe for the long-term and conducive to reducing chronic disease risk factors over a long period of time. If you're thinking about transitioning to a high-fat diet, talk to your doctor about it first. Those who have liver or kidney disease, or women who are pregnant or nursing should not attempt high-fat, low-carb diets. The presence of nitrates and nitrites in processed meat, which may be part of a high-fat diet, may increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Similarly, a very low carb intake usually means you won't be receiving as much fiber, which is essential for healthy digestion and bowel movements. A lack of nutrients from healthy foods with carbs, like fruits and veggies, might also have a negative effect.
Fat-loading as a health benefit may be one of the weirdest, seemingly counter intuitive nutrition ideas out there, but it could be beneficial. Remember to talk to your doctor before making a drastic nutrition and lifestyle change. Thank you for reading, and come back next time for more health news!