I just finished reading Toxic Fat: When Good Fat Turns Bad by Barry Sears, Ph.D. author of The Zone.
What I found interesting about the book is that Sears doesn’t just tell us that obesity is related to the diseases of civilization – such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc. He explains the connection.
According to Sears, over the past few decades three distinct dietary factors came together to create what he calls the Perfect Nutritional Storm: an increase in the consumption of cheap refined carbohydrates (which causes the release of the hormone insulin), an increase in the use of cheap vegetable oils (which are high in omega-6 fatty acids and therefore pro-inflammatory) and a decrease in the consumption of fish oils (which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and therefore anti-inflammatory).
Sears explains that when you consume an excess of cheap carbohydrates and cheap vegetable oils together, the increased levels of insulin from the carbohydrates cause the omega-6 fatty acids from the vegetable oils to produce the powerful inflammatory hormone arachidonic acid (AA). This results in a constant low-level of inflammation which develops into chronic disease.
Sears theorizes that the inflammatory hormone arachidonic acid, which he calls toxic fat, is the underlying cause of chronic disease. It provides the linkage between obesity and chronic disease.
He suggests that all forms of inflammation are controlled by three hormones known as eicosanoids. And that balancing these three hormones creates wellness. The three hormones are: dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), arachidonic acid (AA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DGLA and AA are omega-6 fatty acids and EPA is an omega-3 fatty acids. He believes that the better you do in balancing these three hormones, the less toxic fat you have and the quicker you move back to wellness.
The Zone Diet and fish oil supplements are his remedy for Toxic Fat Syndrome and the way to balance the eicosanoids. The Zone Diet contains a modest amount of low-fat protein, such as fish or chicken, lots of vegetables and fruits and the primary fat is monounsaturated, such as olive oil or almonds. He doesn’t tell you to avoid grains completely, but to use them sparingly, like a condiment.
Sears introduces a number of subjective markers that you can use to determine if you have Toxic Fat Syndrome. Some of these include: are you constantly craving carbohydrates, are you especially hungry two hours after dinner and are you groggy upon waking?
He also suggests some blood tests that will alert you to the presence of Toxic Fat Syndrome. One is the fasting lipid test (which is done whenever you have your physical). It will tell you the level of triglycerides (TG) and (HDL) good cholesterol in your body. He suggests dividing the TG by HDL (TG/HDL). If the ration is greater than four, you probably have Toxic Fat Syndrome.
I thought the book was a good read with lots of useful information. I do not totally agree with his dietary suggestions but they are certainly better than the average modern day diet.