Fat has long been the number one enemy of serial dieters and weight loss gurus; a whole industry has been built on the foundation that ‘fat makes you fat’ and avoiding it will help you shed the pounds. Limiting your intake of greasy foods is certainly not a bad idea but saying no to fat altogether might do more harm than good. Thanks to the raging obesity crisis that we are faced with, despite fridges filled with low fat products, we were forced to take another look at the evidence. Sugar has emerged as the true devil in disguise, facilitating weight gain, obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions characteristic of a sweet and indulgent 21st century lifestyle.
Oils and fats have made a much deserved comeback in recent years; their benefits to health are well documented and the likes of coconut oil and good old fashioned butter can be described as nothing but a superfood. Fish oil has firmly established itself as the Holy Grail of health and wellbeing and should, under no circumstances, be cut out or even reduced!
Regulate your appetite by eating more good fats
A more interesting alternative to ‘fat makes you fat’ is that fat could actually help you to lose weight and find your ideal and natural body shape. This concept is the exact opposite of the widespread misinformation campaign lead by governments and health authorities. However, when taking a closer look at how our body regulates appetite it soon becomes clear how fat might help curb your appetite!
Imagine you are settling down for your dinner. In front of you is a large bowl of super healthy salad, dressed only in lemon juice and a pinch of pepper. As you commence your feast, your stomach will start to stretch and you will begin to feel full pretty quickly. Mechanoreceptors in your stomach wall will send messages to your brain, signalling for you to stop eating. Even though the sheer bulk of food you have just devoured has distended your stomach sufficiently to feel satiated, the sensation won’t last long. Within a couple of short hours, your stomach contents will have emptied and the partially digested food will have moved further down into the beginning of your small intestine, also called the duodenum. Something very significant happens here: the release of cholecystokinin, or CCK. This hormone stimulates digestion but also increases the sensation of fullness.
Interestingly, CCK is only secreted in response to protein and fats and not to carbohydrates. In addition, this hunger busting hormone makes sure that food stays in the stomach for longer; when that’s the case, mechanoreceptors will be stretched for longer and we will feel full for an extended period of time. The other advantage of a meal high in fat is that absorption and digestion of carbohydrates is delayed, keeping your blood sugar levels much more stable. In fact, your salad would be a lot more filling with a generous drizzle of olive oil!
CCK is released in response to all fats, but it is the monounsaturated oils that have another trick up their sleeve; oleic acid, most commonly found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, meat and dairy products, is transformed into a compound called oleoylethanolamide in your small intestine (OEA). OEA rapidly travels to the brain and reinforces the message of satiety and curbs appetite. A study published in 2008 even showed its benefits on lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and weight loss.
Appetite control is the magic solution to weight loss, however, despite a number of regulatory processes and hormones in place, we seem to be able to completely override any innate control of food intake. There is no doubt that a meal high in protein and fat is more beneficial to weight loss and cravings than a high carbohydrate option – but if you really want to eat another piece of that cake, you’re going to eat it, no matter how full your body signals you are! It seems that the sheer availability and variety of foods accessible to us renders any biological mechanism useless. As a species, in all the tens of thousands of years that we have existed, we never lived through a time of food excess; until now, we never had the evolutionary need to evolve a strategy to prevent us from overeating.