Fat protects the brain. In fact, the brain is made up of more than 60 percent fat — one of the highest concentrations in the body.
Furthermore, the myelin sheaths that cover every nerve in the body contain 70 to 80 percent fat and cholesterol. Myelin insulates nerve fibers so that they can send messages.
So if myelin is made up of cholesterol, what do you think could happen when a drug (such as a statin) poisons the enzyme that makes cholesterol?
You guessed it: Taking a statin drug predisposes a person to myelin problems in the brain.
That’s why statins are associated with a host of neurological problems, including amnesia, memory loss, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and neuropathy.
Fat is also required for energy production. In fact, it is the most efficient source of food energy. Every gram of fat provides 9 kilocalories of energy, compared to 4 kilocalories for protein and carbohydrates.
Fat is necessary for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as many minerals. I have seen many patients with vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by simply not ingesting enough dietary fat.
In addition, fat maintains organ function and protects organs by cushioning them against injury.
Finally, healthy skin depends on adequate fat intake because fat keeps the skin supple and smooth. Lack of fat in the diet leads to dry, flaky, unhealthy skin.
The vegetable oils that are available in the grocery store and used in so many restaurants have gone through “hydrogenation,” a chemical process in which another compound is treated with hydrogen. During the hydrogenation process, the polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils become disrupted and lose their normal shape.
These unnatural fats are referred to as trans fats. They are toxic to the body.
The food industry uses trans fats to extend the shelf life of packaged food. In addition to nearly all vegetable oils and margarines sold in grocery stores, they are found in fried foods and baked goods cooked with vegetable oil.
The U.S. government has finally recognized the problems with trans fats, and have mandated that food labels show trans fat levels. However, the labelling is not all that it appears to be: A label that reads “free of trans fats” does not ensure that the product has zero trans fats.
In fact, a product can be labelled as zero trans fats even if the product contains up to 0.5 grams or less per serving.
But there is no safe level of trans fats because they promote inflammation. Sources of trans fats include baked goods, cakes, candy, cereal, coffee creamer, fast food, frozen dinners, and muffins.
We need good fats in our diet. But trans fats, like those found in vegetable oils, do not belong in anyone’s diet. Instead, you should use coconut oil and butter.
Eliminating foods with bad fats and eating healthy, organic food products can make the difference between health and illness.
More information about fats can be found in my book, “The Skinny on Fats.”
Posts by David Brownstein, M.D.
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