Volume 11, Issue 83 September 29, 2014
If you're diabetic, you should eat a
low-fat diet, right? Not so fast....
Last week a patient with diabetes and coronary artery disease came into the clinic to see me. A nutritionist had put her on a low-fat, vegetarian type of diet to treat her diabetes and reduce her blood fats. The problem was that she didn't like the diet – no meat and very little fat. She felt hungry all the time. And she was gaining weight.

Well, you say, at least her clinical condition was improving. Actually no. Her blood sugars and blood fats were worse. Talk about one unhappy lady! One of these days — it might be 200 years from now — people are going to finally learn that having a high level of fat in your diet is not a bad thing. And just last month, a new study once again affirms the benefits of a high-fat diet especially for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Researchers searched the literature for studies that looked at the effects of high-fat verses low-fat diets on blood sugar control and cardiovascular risk factors. They were specifically interested in looking at pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals. They found a total of 14 different trials. All of the trials looked at the effects of the two different dietary approaches for at least a year. These trials looked at a total of 1,753 men and women. What they found is not surprising to me, but it would be to that nutritionist.

Compared to the low-fat diets, the high-fat diets resulted in lower levels of triglycerides, higher levels of HDL cholesterol, lower diastolic blood pressures, and lower fasting blood sugar levels. Just for review, higher triglycerides and lower HDL cholesterol levels are associated with a significant increase in the risk of coronary artery disease. The high-fat diets reversed both of these measurements.

Continued Below...

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The problem is that the low-fat diet idea seems to make sense. After all, doesn't all of that fat you eat get stored in your body as fat? Actually, it doesn't. The more fat you eat, the more fat your body will burn, the less hungry you will be, and the more likely you will be to lose weight. Study after study demonstrates this. On the other hand, the less fat you eat, the hungrier you will be, and the more carbohydrate you will eat. And since carbohydrate does get stored as fat, the fatter you will get. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but that's what happens. So what about the cholesterol thing?

Cholesterol is a fat. And the plaque that causes coronary artery disease is made of fat. So surely eating more fat must make more plaque, right? Once again not true. It is blood levels of fat that create more plaque — not dietary fat. And the surprising thing is that the more fat you eat, the lower your blood fat levels are. The results of this study show this. It all serves to remind us that the human body is complex. And just because something seems to make sense to our little minds does not mean that it's true. That's why scientists do studies.

So don't be like my patient who had to endure 13 months of a low-fat diet before finally coming to her senses. Eat all the fat you want. Just be sure to balance it with vegetables. And keep the carbs down. You can get the whole scientific scoop by reading my book, Bursting With Energy.

Yours for better health,

Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Comparison of the long-term effects of high-fat v. low-fat diet consumption on cardiometabolic risk factors in subjects with abnormal glucose metabolism: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2014 Jun 28;111(12):2047-58.

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