There are many controversial topics when it comes to the world of nutrition. Numerous studies are published weekly about the latest breakthroughs on different foods, diet, supplements and health. Yet, most of these studies are done through an observational scope, which has limited value on their own, and results are often quite conflicting.
However, there are a few facts in nutrition which are strongly backed by science and supported by systematic reviews, meta-analysis and randomized controlled trials — which happen to be the “gold standard” when it comes to studies.
Let’s take a look at 7 nutrition facts that are strongly supported by science
1. High protein diets are beneficial for weight loss
Protein is incredibly important. In fact, it is the most crucial element in helping to retain a healthy body composition. Protein is also vitally important when it comes to maximizing our health. The truth is, if we don’t get enough protein in our diet our health and body composition can suffer dramatically.
In fact, except for water, protein is the most abundant substance in the body. However, because our body is in a constant state of flux, continually breaking down and rebuilding its own tissues, we need to consume protein rich foods every single day.
Protein is the main building block of the body and is the hardest macronutrient for our bodies to disassemble and process. In fact, protein is five times more metabolically demanding than both carbohydrates and fat, making it the most thermogenic macronutrient “meaning” the most stimulating to our metabolism. (1, 2)
The thermic effect of protein is around 30 percent, which means for every 100 calories of protein you consume, your body ends up seeing only 70 of those calories because of the energy it takes to break it down into usable components (amino acids). Additionally protein, at around 30 percent of your total caloric intake, has been shown to boost ones metabolism by up to 100 calories per day compared to lower protein diets. (3)
Another important contribution of protein is its ability to reduce appetite. Protein is much more satiating than both carbohydrates and fat. Therefore, by eating a higher protein diet, because of its ability to keep you satisfied longer, will make it much easier to stick to your weight loss journey without feeling hungry or deprived. (4, 5, 6)
And in fact, in one controlled study, people who consumed a diet containing 30 percent of their daily calories from protein ended up consuming 441 fewer calories per/day without consciously controlling their intake. (12)
High protein diets are proven to be superior for weight loss and weight maintenance by decreasing hunger, increasing feelings of fullness and boosting metabolism.
2. Saturated fat does NOT cause heart disease
For nearly fifty years saturated fat has been demonized as an artery clogging, obesity causing poison. This commonly accepted misconception has pushed an extensive part of society away from many of healthy foods that once filled our plates.
However, we as a species have been eating saturated fats for our entire existence with no problem. Despite this, health authorities have been telling us for the last four plus decades that saturated fat raises the risk of heart disease. And for this reason, we’ve been told to avoid foods like red meat, whole eggs, pork, and full fat dairy products.
Their assumption is based on a theory known as the diet-heart hypothesis, and it goes like this:
- Saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol in the blood.
- LDL cholesterol lodges in the arteries, causing atherosclerosis and eventually, heart disease.
Conversely, this theory has never been proven and the studies are now finally starting to show deep flaws, despite it having been the cornerstone of dietary recommendations since 1977. (13)
In fact, in 2010 a large review article was published with over twenty-one studies done with over 340,000 subjects. The findings concluded that there is no correlation between saturated fat and the risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) or Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). (14)
Then, in 2014, 76 observational and randomized controlled studies were conducted with more than 650,000 participants. Again, these studies found that those with a high saturated fat intake did not have any increased risk of heart disease. (15)
Comprehensive analyses of observational and controlled studies have found no convincing evidence that eating saturated fat causes heart disease.
3. Sugar sweetened beverages are highly fattening
You’ve probably heard this a million times before, but it’s definitely worth repeating. Sugar contains a lot of calories, with no essential nutrients. For this reason, sugar is generally referred to as “empty calories” by many experts in the nutrition world.
There is no protein, essential fats, vitamins, or minerals in sugar. This is why when people eat a large percentage of their calories as sugar, especially when consumed in liquid form; it becomes a primary catalyst for weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and nutrient deficiencies. (20)
Numerous observational and controlled studies clearly point out that sugar sweetened beverages show a significant correlation to obesity, metabolic issues and visceral fat, a very dangerous type of internal abdominal fat that surrounds our vital organs. (21, 22, 23, 24, 25)
In fact, one study in children found that for each serving of soda or other sugar sweetened beverages consumed per day, the risk of obesity and the induction of visceral fat mass was increased by up to 60 percent. (26)
Similarly, in a 10 week controlled study where overweight people consumed 25 percent of calories from fructose sweetened beverages, experienced a 14 percent increase in visceral fat, increases in de novo lipogenesis (DNL), and a decrease in insulin sensitivity. (27)
Research also provides us with sound clues that the calories consumed in liquid form don’t have the same appetite suppressing effect on our body as solid food calories do. This leads to excess calorie consumption, which then leads to weight gain and excess body fat stores. (28, 29)
Sugar sweetened beverages have been shown to promote weight gain and unhealthy abdominal fat, which increases the risk of metabolic issues and chronic disease.
4. Nuts are healthy and weight loss friendly
Many people were scared away from nuts during the low-fat craze. However, nuts are now making a fairly significant comeback due to their amazing health benefits.
Nuts are not only delicious, they are also an excellent source of protein, fiber, healthy fat and minerals essential to our over-all good health.
In fact, a study conducted by Loma Linda University in California which involved 31,000 Seventh-Day Adventists found that eating nuts lowered the risk of heart disease and helped participants to keep their weight down. (30)
Other large-scale studies, including, the Physician’s Health Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study and the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, also found a correlation between nut consumption and reduced risk of coronary heart disease. (31)
If fact, in these studies, an average reduction of 8.3 percent risk factor of heart disease was found for each weekly serving of nuts eaten and an over-all reduction of 37 percent for people who consumed nuts four or more times per week compared to those who ate them less often. (32)
Although all nuts help promote better health, Almonds, Pistachios and Walnuts have been proven exceptional in helping lower inflammatory risk markers, improving cholesterol levels and improving the function of the cells that line our arteries. (33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38)
Furthermore, despite their relatively high calorie content, numerous studies have found that nuts tend to not only help prevent weight gain but in some cases actually promote weight loss. (39, 40, 41, 42)
Nuts are anti-inflammatory, help protect heart health and are beneficial for weight control as well.
5. Omega-3’s lower biomarkers for metabolic and chronic issues
If I had to pick one supplement that I believe everyone in the Western culture should take it would definitely be an Omega-3 supplement. Unfortunately, because of the highly industrialized western diet far too many of us are getting way too much Omega-6 fats and far too little Omega-3’s. Because of this, many of us are left in a constant state of systemic inflammation, the precursor to nearly all of our modern chronic ailments.
The research on Omega-3‘s is pretty remarkable, showing benefits across the board from decreased risk for heart disease and improving joint mobility to decreased insulin resistance, while significantly reducing blood triglyceride levels. (43, 44, 45, 46, 47)
In fact, a quantitative systematic review of 18 studies, done with more than 800 diabetics, taking between 3-18 grams of omega-3 fish oil per/day, found a significant decrease in their triglyceride level while raising their HDL cholesterol. (48)
Additionally, many other studies have found that supplementing with omega-3 fats have significant benefits in reducing inflammation, increasing HDL cholesterol and improving functions of the arteries. (49, 50, 51)
Omega-3 fatty acids have shown benefits across the board for lowering the risk of metabolic and chronic issues.
6. Low carb diets promote superior weight loss
Carbohydrates are usually divided into two types: complex and simple. This is based on their chemical structure and reflects how quickly they’re digested and absorbed.
Complex carbohydrates take longer for your body to break down than simple carbohydrates, therefore taking longer to be absorbed, and helping to maintain a steadier blood-sugar level.
Simple carbs, on the other hand, have very little to no nutrient value and are absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly. A majority of these items will fall into the empty calorie category and are even easier than complex carbs to convert to body fat.
However, no matter if you’re choosing complex or simple carbs, if over consumed, the likelihood of you losing weight, no matter how much you exercise, is slim. In fact, even if you are exercising, if you are consuming too many carbs you will most likely gain weight.
In this respect, low carb diets are undeniably effective for weight loss and have shown to produce superior results when compared to low fat diets in studies lasting anywhere from 6 weeks to 2 years. (52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57)
In fact, a detailed analysis of 17 randomized controlled studies found that overall, low-carb diets led to greater weight loss and reduction in heart disease risk factors, when compared to low-fat diets. (58)
Low carb diets also appear to be particularly beneficial for people with metabolic syndrome, who carry excess weight around their mid-section and are at an increased risk of diabetes.
In a 12 week study of men with metabolic syndrome, the low-carb group lost nearly twice as much weight as the low fat group. They also reported a 20 percent decrease in abdominal fat, on average, compared to only 12 percent in the low fat group. (59)
And in many of these studies, the low carb groups were allowed to eat unlimited protein and fat. One of the reasons low carb diets work so well is that they tend to reduce hunger quicker and longer, which results in a natural decrease in calorie intake. (60, 61)
Many controlled studies have shown that low-carb diets are very effective for weight loss. They also help reduce many risk factors for metabolic and chronic issues like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
7. Dietary cholesterol is not your enemy
Many of us grew up in an era where we were taught that foods high in cholesterol were downright unhealthy. This mystical connection of tying dietary cholesterol to heart disease has been so deeply ingrained in our culture that few people even question its validity.
In fact, for many decades, dietary cholesterol was believed to raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. However, studies now clearly show that when you eat more cholesterol, your body will “automatically” produce less in order to keep your blood cholesterol level stable. (62, 63)
Studies also confirm that consuming foods high in cholesterol, like eggs, doesn’t raise LDL cholesterol levels or increase heart disease risk factors in most people, and in fact, have been shown to actually improve some risk factors for heart disease, including raising HDL levels while promoting beneficial changes in the size and shape of LDL cholesterol. (64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69)
And although, like all other chronic conditions, a small percentage of people, who are considered “hyper-responders” to cholesterol, have been found to experience a large increase in blood cholesterol levels in response to a high dietary cholesterol intake, for most people, regularly eating high cholesterol foods like eggs has been shown to be very healthy and beneficial. (70, 71, 72)
Studies clearly confirm that for the majority of people, dietary cholesterol has no bearing on blood cholesterol or the increase risk factor of heart disease.