The controversy surrounding fat is far from being over (even though we all know it’s long overdue). One minute, health experts are nagging about the ravage fat is causing to our body, causing consumers to frantically seek out fat-free and low-fat products. The next thing you know, everyone is dousing their recipes with olive oil (shout-out to Jamie Oliver! ♥).
With advice shifting like the wind, it’s time to set the record straight – based on current evidence. (Like researchers love to say, “Science is constantly evolving.”)
A recent study published in Plos Medicine compiled 102 randomized controlled trials (RCT) that included more than 4600 participants. Researchers from this study found that “in comparison to carbohydrate, SFA [saturated fatty acids], or MUFA [monounsaturated fatty acids], most consistent favourable effects were seen with PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty acids], which was linked to improved glycaemia, insulin resistance, and insulin secretion capacity.” To a lesser degree, monounsaturated fats were also associated with lower levels of HbA1c when compared to SFA or carbohydrates. “Consuming more unsaturated fats in place of either carbohydrates or saturated fats will help improve blood glucose control”, research suggests, while simply “lowering consumption of carbohydrates or saturated fats would not be optimal”.
In line with this study, the latest American Diabetes Association (ADA) position statement recommends following the Mediterranean-style diet, an eating style that is rich in monounsaturated fats, and consuming foods that are high in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. Whether you are diabetic or simply looking out for your health, load up your cart with foods that are packed with the above nutrients such as vegetable oils (e.g. canola oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil), nuts, fish, and avocado. If there is one type of fat you need to stay clear of, it is the man-made trans fats. Look out for words like hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil in the list of ingredients, as well as the amount of trans fat written in the nutrition facts table.
Bottom line: Yay for unsaturated fats; nay for trans fat.
American Diabetes Association. Prevention or delay of type 2 diabetes. Sec. 4. In Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2016. Diabetes Care 2016;39(Suppl. 1):S36–S38.
Imamura F, Micha R, Wu JH, et al. Effects of Saturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate on Glucose-Insulin Homeostasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Feeding Trials. PLoS Med. 2016;13(7):e1002087.