Fat, particularly the kind you eat, has a big effect on blood sugar levels. This translates to the fat around the middle.
The wrong kind of fat actually blocks the messages sent to the pancreas to increase insulin production – meaning that blood sugar stays higher than normal.
Too much dietary fat also reduces insulin’s effectiveness – again keeping blood sugar levels high. Over time, the liver loses its ability to manage blood fats, resulting in a metabolic issue of excess triglycerides in the blood which increases the risk for heart disease while also making us fat around the middle.
This all means that low fat diets are important to overall health and in the treatment and prevention of diabetes and heart disease. Research has shown that replacing dietary calories of fat with the same number of calories of low glycemic carbohydrate actually improves blood glucose levels.
To combat "fat around the middle", limit fat intake to about 20 percent of total calories. The average American diet is contains about 42 percent of total calories from fat. Read labels and remember that each gram of fat is 9 calories – yikes, this adds up.
The quality of fat is also important. We still have too many omega 6 oils and trans fats in our diet. Remember, if it is on the shelf at the grocery store, it is probably omega 6. Olive oil is the exception.
Omega 3 oils such as flax seed oil and fish oil are beneficial to all people, but particularly for people with type 2 diabetes and/or heart disease. Fish oil contains higher concentrations of omega 3 oils than flax. Fish oil is typically the best oil to supplement because of its concentration. Flax oil is great when it is the main oil you consume, because it has good ratios of 6’s to 3’s – remember that you cannot cook with flax oil.
The right kind of fat actually helps burn free fatty acids in the liver enhancing weight loss and lowering blood lipids. Good fats are a vital component of cell membranes, actually helping cellular communication which tends to facilitate glucose transport into the cells – meaning lower blood sugar and less fat around the middle.
Two particular fats that are important to health are EPA and DHA which are abundant in fish oils. EPA lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It also thins the blood and helps reduce inflammation throughout the body. The DHA component is important for brain and nerve health, improving memory and cognitive function.
What is important to know about the omega 3 oils is that our body tends to ignore them unless our fat intake is relatively low. The human body was designed to work in a more natural system where omega 3’s were abundant and omega 6’s were rare. In our current food system, the omega 3’s are rare and must be supplemented while reducing overall fat consumption to overcome the tendency of the body to favor omega 6 oils.
Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil are beneficial in the diet since they protect against heart disease. Monounsaturated fats help keep arteries flexible and help lower blood pressure.
Remember, the quality and quantity of fat you consume is directly related to the amount of fat around your middle.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.