Fat vs. Sugar : Part 2- Fats

FatsIn the first part of fats vs sugar we discussed the low carbohydrate diet fad and how these types of diets can leave you feeling tired constipated and depleted. In part 2 we’ll discuss how fat has become seen as the enemy in our diets and I’ll show you why adding a specific type of fat is actually beneficial to weight loss and your thyroid health.

Fats have long been seen as the enemy to weight loss and optimal health. However new research is showing just how important they are to our health and wellbeing.

Fat has more calories per weight than proteins and carbohydrates (9 per gram vs 7 to be exact). For this reason many people thought that if we took fat of out diet then we could eat more carbs and protein, feel fuller and lose weight. Unfortunately however this can work to some degree but taking out all fats from your diet will have a few effects that will hinder your weight loss efforts. Firstly, fat is important to the taste and texture of foods. So if you remove all fats you will end up over eating the carbohydrates (especially sugars). Secondly, fats play an essential role in heart and brain health, as well as providing fat soluble vitamins essential to the health of the whole body.

Fats can also play a role in reducing inflammation in the body (especially omega 3’s). If you suffer from underactive thyroid symptoms it is likely that you suffer from Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease. It is believed that as many as 90% of people who have underactive thyroid symptoms have Hashimoto’s disease. One of the side effects of Hashimoto’s (or any autoimmune disease) is increased inflammation in the body which further worsens the symptoms of underactive thyroid.

Saturated Fats vs Monounsaturated Fats

Yet another debate that has been going on for years now is that of the types of fats that we should include in our diet. From the 80’s we were all told that saturated fats are what causes cardiovascular disease and these should be avoided. Saturated fats are found in butter, cream, full cream milk, full cream yogurt, meats and meat by products. Another source of saturated fats is coconuts. For the last 20 years coconut, along with all types of saturated fats have been off the menu of any healthy diets.

As part of the ‘avoid all fats’ fad we were also told to avoid the above foods and instead use vegetable oil and margarines. Unfortunately however even with the advice cardiovascular disease is the number 1 cause of death in most Western societies.
So why is this the case and which oils are best for your thyroid health?

Unfortunately it is now suggested that by increasing these so called healthy oils (vegetable oil) we have in fact been damaging our thyroid health. The most common source of vegetable oil is soybean. Today it is nearly impossible to eat processed, packaged or takeaway foods that don’t contain soy bean oil. Often labels simply state vegetable oil.

A prominent physiologist who has studied hormonal changes since the last 1960’s has noted the change that vegetable oils have had on our hormones since their significant rise in our diets. He writes:

“Their [polyunsaturated oils] best understood effect is their interference with the function of the thyroid gland. Unsaturated oils block thyroid hormone secretion, its movement in the circulatory system, and the response of tissues to the hormone. When the thyroid hormone is deficient, the body is generally exposed to increased levels of estrogen. The thyroid hormone is essential for making the ‘protective hormones’ progesterone and pregnenolone, so these hormones are lowered when anything interferes with the function of the thyroid. The thyroid hormone is required for using and eliminating cholesterol, so cholesterol is likely to be raised by anything that blocks the thyroid function.”

The healthier choice: Coconut Oil

As mentioned, since the 80’s most people have been scared of saturated fats including coconut oil. As a result they turned to vegetable fats, which traditionally have been used to fatten up livestock, and surprisingly it seems we have fattened ourselves up and developed underactive thyroids to boot.
Vegetable oils are polyunsaturated oils that are made up of what is known as a long-chain fatty acid.
Coconut oil is different. It is a saturated fat that is made up mostly of a medium-chain fatty acid (or Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s). Medium-chain fatty acids have some incredible health benefits:

• Increase metabolisim
• Promote weight loss
• Raise body temperature
• Increase metabolism

These are fantastic features if you have underactive thyroid symptoms!

The Research on MCTs and How They Promote Weight Loss

There has been a number of studies conducted on MCT’s that all show its ability to promote weight loss. One study on rats found that those fed vegetable oils (LCTs) stored body fat, while those fed MCTs showed a reduction in body fat, while also improving insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Another study from March 2003 on 24 healthy, but overweight men showed that after 28 days the group that consumed a diet rich in MCT lost more weight and had more energy that the randomized control group that had a diet rich in olive oil (LCTs).

Yet another study published in 2002 in, The Journal of Nutrition, reported that MCTs are easier for the body to digest than LCTs. This is the result of LCTs unstable nature and capacity to oxidise quickly (that is go rancid). As a result MCTs help to increase energy expenditure, help us feel fuller faster (and for longer) and may help facilitate weight control when used as a replacement for LCTs in the diet.

An earlier study in 2002, The Journal of Nutrition came to the same conclusion. They reported that MCTs are more readily oxidized in the liver than LCTs, which leads to more energy and less weight gain. The study concluded that MCTs increase energy expenditure, may result in faster satiety, and facilitate weight control when included in the diet as a replacement for fats containing LCTs.


So does this mean that we have found the magic cure for obesity and thyroid disease? Unfortunately, no. This is just one part of the puzzle. More research in this area is necessary. In the meantime, those switching from polyunsaturated oils to coconut oil are reporting many positive results.
In part 3 of Fat vs Sugar, you will learn why it is not just fat or sugar that is the problem and how you can maintain a balanced diet of the two.

• P. Fort, N. Moses, M. Fasano, T. Goldberg and F. Lifshitz J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 9 (1990), p. 164
• Daniel R. Doerge, Hebron C. Chang, “Inactivation of thyroid peroxidase by soy isoflavones in vitro and in vivo” Journal of Chromatography B Vol. 77
• Effect of Dietary Fat Source, Level and Feeding Interval on Pork Fatty Acid Composition by M.T. See and J. Odle
• June, 2003, Obesity Research
• The Colorado Thyroid Disease Prevalence Study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
• David Frahm, Health Quarters Monthly, Vol. 58, August, 2003