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Fats in a Vegetarian Diet

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2007-2008 reported total fat consumption in the United States was almost 34% for men and women alike.  Saturated fat intake was 11% for both genders. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend 20-25% total fat intake, with no more than 10% from saturated fat. The guidelines also suggest lowering saturated fat intake to 7% will further decrease the risk of disease.

Fat is a contributing factor for many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Obesity is not a chronic disease but obesity is often a pre-cursor to disease. Being overweight or obese leads to many risk factors for chronic disease.

A plant-based diet with no added fats e.g., oils, avocados, nuts and seeds is a low-fat diet and will supply 10-12% fat in the diet. A low-fat diet will supply needed nutrients while protecting against disease. Fat is a necessary macronutrient, just not in the amounts usually consumed.

Essential fatty acids (omega-6s and omega-3s) are needed in minute amounts, approximately 2-3% of total caloric intake. Omega-6s are inflammatory, fight off infections and clot the blood.  Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and thin the blood. The ratio is more important than the actual amount consumed, Depending on the source, a ratio of 1:1 up to a ratio of 4:1 omega-6s to omega-3s is the goal. The fats that meet this ratio are flaxseed, chia seed, hempseed and English walnuts. This ratio is another reason to minimize fat consumption. Other fats, nuts and seeds fall outside this range creating a huge imbalance. Avocados have a ratio of 15:1, cashews 117:1, sunflower seeds 300:1, all the way up to almonds at 1800:1.

Dr. Robert Vogel of the University of Maryland School of Medicine conducted the brachial artery tourniquet test (BART) to measure the inflammation of the endothelium after a high-fat meal. The endothelium is the innermost lining of the blood vessels and the heart.

  • Ultrasound was used to measure the diameters of the brachial arteries of the participants.
  • Blood pressure cuffs were inflated on their arms which stopped blood flow to the forearms for five minutes.
  • After deflating the cuffs ultrasound measured how fast arteries sprang back to normal.

One group then ate a fast food breakfast of 900 calories with 50 grams of fat. The other group ate a 900 calorie breakfast with no fat. When the meal was over their arteries were constricted for another five minutes. The participants who consumed no fat responded normally, while the group who consumed the high-fat meal took 6 hours to return to normal.

This test has also been utilized with other foods. Olive oil, the heart healthy oil, creates inflammation in the arteries. Olive oil is between 13-17 percent saturated fat. Oils are a combination of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. 

Fat is fat. Animal studies reveal consumption of monounsaturated fats showed some improvement in cholesterol numbers but the animals still developed just as much coronary disease as those eating saturated fat.

Consuming toxic meals again and again gives the blood vessels no time to return to normal. Constant inflammation from a high-fat diet leads to damage and disease.

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