Not long ago, low-fat diet gurus were
trying to terrorize people into reducing all fat consumption. Now that
we have witnessed the epidemic of obesity that followed, we know
better. Healthy fats help keep us slender! They also help protect
against atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and
various other degenerative disorders.
Through their impact on important
metabolic enzymes, healthy fats increase the synthesis of beneficial
prostaglandins E1 and E3 while decreasing the levels of inflammatory
prostaglandin E2; they also modify cell membrane composition and
fluidity. Hence, improved blood flow and tissue oxygenation, higher
metabolic rate, improved insulin sensitivity, immune enhancement,
muscle and bone, brain, and faster nerve impulse conductance result,
to mention just a few of the major benefits.
Thus, while in the 1970s and 1980s
dietary fat was demonized and presented as being a problem, we are
beginning to see various kinds of healthy fat as part of the solution.
An article in The American Journal
of Clinical Nutrition described a study of dietary fish (Mori et.
al. 1999). Overweight patients being treated for hypertension were
randomly assigned to a daily fish-containing meal (3.65 g of omega-3
fatty acids); a weight-loss regimen; the two regimens combined; or a
control group for 16 weeks. Fasting triglycerides fell 29% with fish
consumption and 26% with weight loss. The fish plus weight-loss
regimen group showed the greatest improvement in lipids: triglycerides
decreased by 38% and HDL cholesterol (the good one) increased by 24%
compared with the control group. The authors concluded that adding a
daily fish meal into a weight-loss regimen was more effective than
either measure alone at improving glucose-insulin metabolism and dyslipidemia (Mori et. al. 1999).