I love movies and documentaries. Over break I watched a movie called “Fat Head”. It’s streaming on Netflix right now. It’s a movie that shook things up with me. Basically the movie was a scientific study to disprove the assertions made in the film “Supersize Me”. In “Supersize Me” the host eats nothing but fast food for 30 days, he gains around 30 pounds, his cholesterol shoots up, and his liver enzymes go off the chart. In “Fat Head” the host eats nothing but fast food for 28 days and he loses 12 pounds, his cholesterol goes down 10 points, and his energy level shoots up. How is this possible? Of course there is more going on behind the scenes, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
I’m like most people: when I hear a convincing argument regarding a subject I tend to believe it, especially when it is backed by studies and experts. This sounds reasonable, right? Well, what do you do when conflicting sides of an argument are backed by the same studies? Polar opposites with equal scientific proof? What I am getting at is diet, more specifically vegetarian, vegan, low-protein diets versus a low carbohydrate, carnivorous diet. In the book “The China Study”, the author uses the “Framingham” study to make his point that an omnivorous, high protein diet, leads to heart disease and high mortality. In the film “Fat Head”, they use the same study to prove that there is no difference in mortality. The difference is that in the “China Study” which was published in 2006 they quoted research from 1961. And in “Fat Head” they quoted research from 1997. Which is accurate? The FDA says one thing and some expert says another. And then we’re off on conspiracy tangents — big business is forcing the FDA to recommend their foods in greater proportion than others, or the pharmacies recommending diets that ultimately create a need for their prescription medicines.
Of course I wouldn’t recommend a diet in this forum, but I would suggest watching “Fat Head.” For me, I’ve always carried extra weight. About 10 years ago I lost 80 pounds on the “Atkin’s” diet, eating hardly any carbs, of course I gained it back. Last year I lost 74 pounds going all vegan, with a high carb diet. And yes, I’ve gained it back. What’s next, exercise?!?!?!
Sherri Meyer, MG Registered Dietitian
A recent MG conference call about essential fatty acids got me thinking. How many people actually know what essential fats are? More specifically how many people know the difference between omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids? The consumer information is confusing and often misleading. We are told to choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats and eliminate trans fat, simple, right?! Well actually it’s more complex then that.
There are specific types of unsaturated fats that are essential…meaning we cannot make them on our own and must ingest them through our diet. Two essential polyunsaturated fats are omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for health. We need omega-3 fatty acids for normal body functions such as controlling blood clotting. Omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with benefits like protection against heart disease and possibly stroke. Omega 3 fatty acids are thought to reduce inflammation, which is thought to contribute to various diseases such as heart disease & cancer. More recently, omega 3 fatty acids have been associated with decreased rates of depression.
The three most nutritionally important omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) & alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Omega-3 fatty acids come mainly from the fat of cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish. Cold-water fish contain the two critically important omega-3 fatty acids, (EPA and or DHA). There are vegetarian sources that contain the omega 3 fatty acid ALA. These sources include walnuts, canola oil, flaxseeds & some green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach & salad, which contain a precursor omega-3 (ALA) that the body partially converts to EPA and DHA. It is recommended that we consume one omega 3 fatty acid source per day. If you do not consume any fish products, you may want to speak with your doctor about essential fatty acid supplementation. Omega 6 fatty acids are also polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for health. Omega 6 fatty acids are abundant in the Western diet; common sources include safflower, corn, cottonseed & soybeans oils. These oils, specifically soybean oil are often used in processed foods such as cookies, cakes & snack crackers. Research has suggested that we are consuming too much omega 6 & not enough omega 3 fatty acids. This dietary imbalance may explain the rise of such diseases that stem from inflammation such a coronary artery disease & various cancers. Too much omega 6 is thought to promote inflammation, but there is some evidence to suggest otherwise. There are benefits to omega 6 fatty acids such as lowering LDL (“lousy”) cholesterol, hence providing protection against heart disease. So there is benefit to consumption of omega 6 fatty acids, but we have clearly been consuming too much in the form of processed foods. For now the solution is quite simple: increase your intake of the healthy omega 3 fatty acids (consume more fish & vegetables) and reduce your consumption of processed foods.