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Cheryl Matrasko
James Loeser
Matthew O'Connor


Cheryl Matrasko
James Loeser
Matthew O'Connor



by Matthew O'Connor

Many people realize that excessive fat consumption is unhealthy. There are myriad ways that fat consumption can be limited, but not all of them are the best way to help us reach our goals. There are two basic reasons that people have for decreasing fat consumption.

The first is weight control. We know there is a connection between fat consumption and body mass. Fat makes you fat because, for one, it is caloric (there are 9 calories in a gram of fat compared to 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate or protein). The other reason is that the body tends to store fat. Fat is at the bottom of the body’s biochemical hierarchy; simple carbohydrates (sugars) are at the top as they are metabolized quickly. While weight loss is rarely a simple undertaking, the concepts themselves are quite simple. Basically, body weight is a balance of energy in verses energy out. If a body consumes more energy (calories) than it spends it gains weight; if less is consumed than is burned, it losses weight. Thus one logical course of action that many people desiring weight loss follow is to try to change their diet. Most dieters are aware of what I explained about energy and fat so they immediately start to remove fat from their diets. Unfortunately, most people end up turning to fat substitutes rather than making fundamental changes to their diets. Instead of limiting desert foods in out diets, we switch to low fat deserts. Also, just because a label says fat free, does not necessarily mean that the food is low calorie. Desert foods usually replace the fat they leave out with large amounts of sugar: as sugar is a natural flavor enhancer, the absence of the fat can often be replaced by extra sugar. In fact, this method is used to lower fat in many processed foods and not just in deserts. Low fat peanut butter, for example, simply replaces fat with sugar. Skippy peanut butter contains 17 grams of fat per serving and 190 calories. Reduced fat Skippy, contains only 12 grams of fat, but 8 more grams of sugar and exactly the same number of calories per serving.

The second reason that fat consumption is regulated is for general good health and disease prevention. Excess fat consumption is associated with arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries causing heart disease), stroke, diabetes, and many cancers. Some of these problems are aggravated by high cholesterol, which is often consumed along with animal fats. When we reduce fat for health reasons we should make sure that our substitutes are themselves healthy. If we replace high fat fresh food with low fat processed food we are often eliminating valuable nutrients stored in the fat. The refining processes that make foods packageable and give them long shelf lives often remove nutrients that the food naturally contains. Another reason that replacement of fat with sugar is deleterious is that refined sugar contains no nutrients. Naturally occurring fats contain fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin E and A and K, while refined sugar contains no vitamins nor does it assist in bodily processing of nutrients. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that refined sugar consumption may elevate blood cholesterol levels.

Instead of dropping fats in favor of fat substitutes, we should concentrate on making fundamental changes to our diets. Try eating fruit in place of the deserts that are more commonly consumed, such as milk chocolate. If you don’t eat much fruit right now, you may find that fruit is not sweet enough to satisfy you. Be patient. After a short while on a diet that is not saturated with sugar and fat, an orange will taste succulent. Another good substitute is fish and poultry in place of red meat (beef, pork, lamb). Fish and poultry tend to be much lower in fat and cholesterol than red meat, and are usually just as rich in nutrients if not more so. Also, unless you are a body builder or a vegetarian, do not worry about your protein intake. If you are consuming any animal products on a daily basis, you are most likely consuming more than enough protein than is necessary for good health and receiving all essential (8 in all) amino acids. Vegetarians are fully capable of getting complete protein in their diets, but simply must be conscious of eating adequate protein.

The best advice is to keep your goal in mind and think about how the food that you eat is going to help you attain that goal. Please consult your doctor or nutritionist before making radical changes to your diet.

Questions? Email me: If I don’t know the answer I’ll find it!

Bio and Disclaimer:

Matthew O'Connor is currently finishing his work on his PhD in Molecular Biology at Baylor University and is a student of Aikido. While he does make a hobby of studying (and practicing) good nutrition, he is neither an MD nor a nutritionist. Please consult your doctor or nutritionist before making radical changes to your diet.

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Michio Hikitsuchi 10th Dan 1978
(C. Matrasko as uke)
1978 C. Matrasko

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