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Please enjoy my blog posts below, or CLICK HERE to go to the new Laurel Acupuncture Clinic website. Thank you!

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Welcome to the website for Jim Chialtas, L.Ac., and Laurel Acupuncture Clinic of Functional Medicine, located in San Diego.

Click on the tabs above to learn more about what Functional Medicine is, and about many of the health concerns I specialize in. Or scroll down for my blog. You might find it helpful to use the labels in the lower right column to find topics that interest you.

In addition to seeing clients privately in my clinic, I also offer many of the same services remotely to US residents. Please feel free to contact me to set up a consultation or appointment. Thank you!

10/27/10

Is Our Low Fat Lifestyle Actually Killing Us?

If there has ever been a medical dogma that has taken hold so tightly as to actually cause us harm it is the concept of eating low fat foods for better health. The fact is that there is no credible evidence proving this to be true, but came into its own in the 80’s when the cholesterol fighting boom took over healthcare. All of the sudden fatty foods, particularly the saturated fats, became a boogey man for heart health and a massive campaign was launched to stop us from eating the stuff. The idea was that since cholesterol (found in fatty foods) is a major constituent in arterial plaque we should therefore avoid consuming fatty and cholesterol containing foods. And then there is also the misconception that since we are all avoiding fat on our bodies, we should avoid fat in our diets, as if it goes directly from our mouths to our thighs! Hogwash… So what is this low fat diet actually doing for us other than not increasing our overall health or lengthening our life spans? There are quite a few things going on here that perhaps you have not considered. I hope to bring up a few concepts here that might just get you thinking about how to eat for better health.

Probably the most significant mishap through this whole saturated fat scare is the switch from good old saturated fats to hydrogenated vegetable oils. These are things like margarine and Crisco, which are actually just artificially made saturated fats! What they have done here is take a vegetable oil which is normally liquid at room temperature and add some hydrogen atoms to the long carbon chain that makes up its chemical structure. This makes a liquid a solid so that it can be used like a spread, or to make packaged baked goodies with a longer shelf life. The trouble here is that doing so creates trans fats. Losing the natural saturated plant and animal fats and replacing them with factory made trans fats has probably single handedly killed more people than any other factor today, and all in the name of better health. And I can guarantee that a good number of people reading this article now still feel that they should avoid butter over their butter-like spread. In fact butter is one of the most stable of the fats out there and does not turn to trans fat when heated. The same cannot be said for the hydrogenated oils. Once heat is applied, whammo, you get trans fats. Even the ones that claim to be trans fat free, once heated have the potential to turn to trans fat in the pan. Sneaky advertising to say the least. So please be very careful about what you are putting in your mouth! If it was made in a lab it probably isn’t good for you!

The second concept that comes to mind is that in order for us to think clearly and have healthy and powerful cognition we need to have plenty of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. In order to make Acetylcholine we need several raw materials in our diets to be present. The main constituent required is Choline. Without adequate intake of Choline containing foods we cannot make Acetylcholine. So where do we get Choline you ask? Well guess what… We get Choline in high fat foods such as fatty pork, cream, cheese, egg yolks, nuts and seeds for example. Besides the nuts and seeds (which need to be raw mind you) the other foods listed are generally on the naughty list by mainstream standards. So an argument could be made that eating a diet void of these fatty foods, or even low in these foods could actually make you less sharp in the long run! But to take it a step further, if you do not stimulate the neurons in your brain with the various hormones and neurotransmitters like Acetylcholine, the brain cells begin to die. The Hippocampus is a structure in the brain that, among other important jobs, is responsible for turning short term memory into long term memory. It happens to be rich in Acetylcholine receptors and when these receptors do not get stimulated by Acetylcholine you get degeneration of the Hippocampus. This is the first structure in the brain to decline in cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. It is vital that we keep our Hippocampus and Acetylcholine system primed to avoid the ravages of mental decline as we age. And a diet without Choline (ie. a fat free diet) can be a quicker road to dementia and brain health decline than you think. Remember, our brains are made up primarily of fat and cholesterol. We need these raw materials to keep our brains healthy.

Overall, once you get past the scare tactics, the reasons for avoiding fats are few compared to the reasons for including them as a main player in your diet. I only chose a couple of points here to spotlight but there are plenty more. And don’t get me wrong, fat is of course a high energy food and should be respected. Over eating any high energy food is a bad thing to do. But when you factor in good fats like what you might find in raw nuts and seeds, meat, fish, avocados and coconuts (yes you can and should consume coconut oil. It is one saturated fat that actually helps you burn body fat!) you are not only protecting your brain, but you are giving every cell in your body what it needs to carry out the millions of functions that keep you a healthy and thriving person. Keep your fats natural and your body will know exactly what to do with them. It is the new factory made stuff that causes the trouble. So please people, understand that we have come a long way in our understanding of health since the 80’s. I know that we are told by our doctors and by the commercials and ads every day that we should avoid fats. Fat is an easy scapegoat. But one thing to really take to heart is that outdated medical dogmas like this one don’t die easily. But it doesn’t mean that they are correct. If saturated fats were really killers then there would be no more Eskimos. They eat a diet consisting primarily of saturated fats and very little vegetables yet live longer and healthier lives than those of us in the lower states eating the low fat stuff. It isn’t until they come down here that they suffer the same poor health as us average Americans. Go and Google the “Eskimo Paradox,” to see what I am talking about. But above all, do what the elders did. Enjoy your healthy and yummy fats in moderation. Avoid the synthetic stuff and the simple sugars and carbs and you will be way ahead of the mainstream concept of what is considered healthy. And not to mention your food will taste better.

Happy eating, and good health!