nutrition and health

Fat phobia

One day I was sitting with my friend, she brought some snacks. I said, I am full, just had lunch few minutes back. She reinforced me to have it by saying ‘it is roasted and fat free’. After coming back home I thought about it. We are not eating to fulfil our hunger but we start contemplating our food options whole day. This is so automatic that just after looking at the food we start rationalizing its contents.

How much carbohydrate, protein or fat it contains..?

And if by chance that meal has lot of fat, instead of enjoying we are already caught into guilt or phobia.

Why fat phobia?

This phobia comes from the beliefs we have about fat, like

  • Eating fat may lead to obesity
  • Eating fat may result in increase of cholesterol level.
  • Eating more fat is directly related to heart disease and stroke and the low dietary intake of fat is protective.

Fat and heart disease

Heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis – the process by which arteries in the heart become narrowed and hardened by the building up of plaque. But atherosclerosis is not simply the result of high cholesterol level clogging arteries. Current opinion holds that the plaque develops as a response to injury; the wall of the artery becomes damaged, resulting in inflammation, which in turn allows infiltration of cholesterol and inflammatory cells into artery walls, in addition to the proliferation of smooth muscle.

The narrowing of the artery may cause chest pain (also called as angina). When plaques rupture, a blood clot forms, which abruptly blocks the artery. The resulting lack of oxygen causes heart attack. Heart attacks and strokes are predominantly inflammatory diseases, rather than simply diseases of high cholesterol level.


The liver manufacturers the majority (80%) of the blood cholesterol, with only 20% comes from diet. Cholesterol is often portrayed as some harmful poisonous substance that must be eliminated, but truth is something else. Cholesterol is a key building block in the membranes that surround all the cells in our body. In fact, it’s so vital that every cell in the body except the brain has the ability to make it. If you reduce cholesterol in diet your body will simply make it.

A study by harward university  tells that “there is absolutely no correlation between saturated fats and blood cholesterol. The study concluded, “no association between percent of calories from fat and the serum cholesterol level; nor between ratio of plant fat to animal fat intake and serum cholesterol level.”

There is no suggestion of any relation between diet and the subsequent development of coronary heart disease.

Fat and its phobia

One problem is “nutritionism”, it is a term popularized by a journalist and auther Michel Pollan. Rather than discussing individual foods, nutritionism reduced food to only three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. fat is then further divided in to saturated, unsaturated and trans fats. Nutritionism ignores the complexity of food science and human biology.

For example, an avocado contains 88% fat, a tea spoon of trans fat laden margarine cannot be reasonably compared to an avocado simply because both contain equal amount of fat.

Most natural animal fats are chiefly composed of saturated fats. in contrast, vegetable oils such as corn are chiefly omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Fatty acids

Fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat. During digestion, the body breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed into the blood. Fatty acid molecules are usually joined together in groups of three, forming a molecule called a triglyceride. Triglycerides are also made in our bodies from the carbohydrates that we eat.

Saturated fatty acids

The saturated fatty acids are derived from both animal fats and plant oils. Rich sources of dietary saturated fatty acids include butter fat, meat fat, and tropical oils (palm oil, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil). These remain semi solid at room temperature.

Unsaturated fatty acids

Most unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are called oils. Unsaturated fats or oils are usually of plant origin.

Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids are fatty acids required for biological processes, but not synthesized by the human body. Consequently, they have to be supplemented through ingestion via the diet and are nutritionally very important.

  • Omega 3 fatty acids

You must be hearing about this. You may also read this on oil cans and advertisements. These poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are anti-inflammatory. That means these can decrease thrombosis (blood clots) are believed to protect against heart disease. Flax seeds, walnuts, oily fish such as sardines and salmon are all good sources.

  • Omega 6 fatty acids

One more commonly known thing is omega 6 fatty acid. Its action is just opposite to omega 3. It is highly inflammatory. Its sources are Walnuts, Pine nuts, Sunflower seeds, Sunflower oil, Corn oil, Walnut oil, Cottonseed oil, Soybean oil, Mayonnaise, Almonds, Tofu. The massive use of vegetable oils can be traced to technological advances in the 1900’s that allowed modern production methods. which increased the intake of omega 6 fatty acids.

Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids balance

Omega 3 FA is anti-inflammatory and omega 6 FA is highly inflammatory. High dietary ratio of omega 6:3 ratios increase inflammation, potentially worsening cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that humans evolved eating a diet that is closed to equal in omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. Either we are eating way too little omega 3, way too much omega 6, or more likely both.

Trans fats

An oil has been refined by using chemicals that are harmful to us.  In short it means to ‘purify’. But the meaning of purify has many definitions.  It may mean the oil was treated with acid, or purified with an alkali, or bleached.  It can also be neutralized, filtered or deodorized.  All of which require chemicals like Hexane!

In the process of making and refining these types of oils, it leads to PUFas (rancid polyunsaturated fatty acids) which DO NOT hold up well to high heats.  In the process of being extracted from the seed these oils oxidize and turn into trans fats.  The smell is so rancid that a cleaning process has to take place using bleach to deodorize it.

Consuming trans fat increases LDL (low density lipoprotein, bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (high density lipoprotein, good cholesterol).

Dietary fats and obesity

The evidence on a link between dietary fat and obesity is consistent: there is no association whatsoever. We tend to eat lesser carbohydrate, thinking it may make us obese, Same with fat. Is it possible to only eat protein? No, and we should not do that. Our body needs all macronutrients in optimum amount and in original forms. Even the National cholesterol education program admits, “the percentage of total fat in diet, independent of calorie intake, has not been documented to be related to body weight.

A comprehensive review of all the studies of high-fat dairy finds no association with obesity, with whole milk, sour cream and cheese offering greater benefits than low fat dairy. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat, but may protect you against it. Eating fat together with other foods tends to decrease glucose and insulin spikes.


After reading about all the macronutrients and the dietary patterns, it is very important to include all the macronutrients in our diet mindfully. Have you ever thought that earlier it wasn’t the matter of concern, people used to just eat according to their hunger. Now, eating also gives us stress. But what is the reason behind this? It can be our type of food. Most of the things in our kitchen are processed, starting from wheat flour to oils or sugar. Vegetable oil processing makes it high in trans fats. Having vegetable oils also makes our omega 6 fatty acid consumption higher. That is inflammatory in nature. That may be the reason of increasing incidence of heart diseases and strokes in every age.

Don’t think much; just concentrate on having non processed food, include seasonal fruits and vegetables of all colors. Always try to change variety of food items in your every day meals. At the end, enjoy every meal without thinking about its calorie content till the time it is non-processed.

In other words try to follow paleo diet, cavemen diet or original human diet.


About the author

Anju Rai Tiwary

Hi, I am a physiotherapist specialized in neurology. I have also done various certification courses like autism spectrum disorder and weight management. I am here to clarify your health-related curiosities.

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