Skin Coach Q&A: The Effect Of Low Fat Diet On Your Skin

low-fat diet

Question:

I generally have a lot of issues with my skin, even though I eat a healthy, low-fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. My skin is dry, red, and

 prone to breakouts. It looks inflamed most of the time. As I get older (I’m 51) I’m noticing very deep lines forming. I’m wondering why all this is going on, since I eat such a healthy diet? Maybe I’m using the wrong products for my skin?

Erin Answers:

While it may be true that you’re using the wrong products for your skin, I see another big clue in your question: LOW FAT. Believe it or not, ‘low-fat’ is not ‘healthy’. I realize this may come as a surprise, but we actually need a significant amount of fat in our diet!

The low-fat diet lie

Seriously. The low-fat dietary theory, first promoted by nutrition researcher Nathan Pritikin in the 1950’s, has been proven dangerously flawed. After first advocating a no-fat diet, long-term research revealed a host of physiological issues including fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, mood disorders (especially depression), weight issues, and more. So Pritikin revised his recommendation, and the low-fat diet was born. Still a core dietary recommendation today, despite heaps of research showing this to be a dangerously flawed theory, the low-fat approach is not doing us any favors. Thankfully, many forward thinking doctors and dietitians recommend including more fat in a healthy diet, not less.

We need fat to carry out important functions in the body. It’s required for healthy hormone production. It’s the cholesterol in our skin that makes vitamin D (actually a hormone, not a vitamin) out of sunshine. Fats build healthy cells, help us heal faster, and make anti-inflammatories. They help us absorb minerals from other foods, and aid digestion. Our brains are approximately 60% cholesterol. Fats are required for healthy liver function, for utilizing proteins, and for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. We actually need fat to burn fat. And the list goes on.

Due to the ‘success’ of the low-fat diet theory, healthy fatty acid deficiency is epidemic. A lack of fat in the diet leads to skin problems; musculoskeletal, endocrine and cardiovascular issues; allergies and depression.

Good vs. Bad?

Most people are familiar with the term ‘good fats’. We’ve heard that LDL cholesterol and saturated fat are ‘bad’. But research and time have shown this to be inaccurate.

With the exception of soy, cottonseed and canola (which ARE bad and should be avoided in a healthy diet), the difference between good and bad fats lie in the way they’re processed, not in the nature of their source. Heat and processing can make a good fat go bad, as with hydrogenation. A diet high in sugar, including those from sweet fruits and carbohydrates, can create oxidized fats in the body that lead to unhealthy side effects such as clogged arteries.  In that case you can blame the sugar, not the innocent fat!

I hope you find this helpful, and will consider the possibility that the story of a ‘healthy low-fat diet’ is a great work of fiction.