The majority of Americans eat a diet low in fat or high in rancid or hydrogenated fats. On a cellular level why is a poor or low fat diet detrimental to health?
Let's Start with the Cells
For cellular and overall well-being the cell membranes must be healthy. The cellular/plasma membranes are made of lipids (fats) and proteins. We need good quality fats and nutrients in the diet to be absorbed and assimilated. Foods such as avocados, nuts, and/or animal fats such as bone broths, cold pressed olive oil that has been placed in dark bottles, duck fat, and beef tallow provide good quality fats needed to build the lipid bilayer of the cells. If a diet is low in fat (and vitamins and minerals) we will not have the pieces we need to create and maintain healthy cells.
The lipid bilayer is a vital part of the plasma membrane. This is how nutrients get into the cell and how the toxins get out to be detoxed. One layer of the lipid bilayer is right up against the other and they are made of the lipid molecules: phospholipids, cholesterol, and glycolipids. This aspect of the cell is very important because it regulates what content can move in and out of the membrane. The proteins and enzymes help to speed up chemical reactions and to manage getting harmful things out of the cells and the plasma membrane. We need to be able to detox what we don't need as well as to be able to absorb the nutrients we can use. If this process is interrupted due to a diet high in refined carbs, caffeine, and sugar we may have harmful chemicals or aspects of processed foods building our cells insufficiently. This can cause many of us to feel bad, to develop unhealthy imbalances/nutritional deficiencies, and general health problems.
Fats in our body are made up of the atoms hydrogen and carbon. These atoms create various compounds and molecules in our bodies. In order for our bodies to be healthy they need to have the correct parts from a whole food diet that is properly prepared. From nutrient rich foods we get usable products from them which the body uses to create healthy chemical bonds. Chemical bonds hold atoms together. This whole process is significant because it is what creates cells.
Cells are the tiny little creations/workers that keep out bodies going. If they are not healthy our bodies will start to show signs of malfunction, disease, or imbalance. These symptoms can appear in various ways due to what the cells are lacking. This is a concern because when cells are struggling this can affect various necessary functions in the body. For example if healthy fats are not present in the diet the necessary hydrogen and carbon cannot chemically bond together to make healthy molecules and cells that are needed. As we learned earlier, nutrients can’t get in and toxins can’t get out.
While we eat these cells produce enzymes and thus our body turns our food into energy or ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Our body uses ATP to keep up its necessary metabolic functions. Fat is particularly important because if it is used properly in the system in can be a long burning energy which means we need less of it to sustain ourselves for longer periods of time. Fat burns longer in the body than complex (veggie) carbohydrates or proteins. Of course carbohydrates and proteins are still vital forms of nutrition, they just have different uses. If we do not have healthy cells, this affects healthy chemical reactions. We need chemical reactions to run smoothly to create and maintain tissue health (and this is hugely important as tissues make up organs), organ function, and system function. On a systematic level the body will struggle if one or more organs are not functioning properly. The end result of organ dysfunction is an organism, or a person who feels sick, out of balance, and is showing signs of a specific disease or symptoms that may be pointing to the potential development of an imbalance.
The gallbladder is an important example as it is a vital organ that is a part of the digestive system. If it does not have healthy fats it will hold on to the food/nutrients that we have eaten until the alkalinity and acidity is at the healthy balance that the gallbladder is supposed to regulate. When we eat hydrogenated oils for examples this throws off our alkalinity and acidity balance and thus harmful aspect of those chemical are released and maybe unhealthy stored in our colon. If the gallbladder struggles the whole digestive system may have difficulty feeling good and functioning.
The more hydrogen atoms there are present the more acidic the fluids are in the body. And the more hydroxide, the more alkaline. Certain fluids in our body are meant to be more alkaline and some more acidic. It is natural for the human body to have a balance. Hydrogenated oils are destructive and unhealthy fats for our body’s metabolic functions. It would be like having a spoon made of putty when you really need a good wooden spoon for stirring. Hydrogenated oils/fats make it incredibly hard for us to turn this fat into energy that would support healthy cellular function.
These fats do not have the original make up of oil such as olive oil in its properly prepared cold pressed state. They have been overly heated, processed, and treated and thus have been chemically altered. They fill the space where healthy hydrogen atoms might go and they do not nourish the cells to produce usable energy. They can cause problems all over the body and yet especially in the gut and in the gallbladder which really depend on healthy fats to function properly. If our organs cannot properly function, diseases/imbalances occur as a result. If the cells continue to be weak the tissues and organs will also have a hard time repairing or rebuilding from various diseases. It can be a rough cycle. The weak organs end up malfunctioning and have a hard time detoxing the chemicals that caused the imbalance or disease in the first place as they lacked indispensable nutrients.
I feel so empowered when I learn about the anatomy and physiology of the body. If we know how it works we can support ourselves to be vital. We can put foods, cooking and preparation practices, supportive community members, and environments in place to give us what we need to nourish ourselves with whole foods. I love this work and I hope you feel free to ask any questions or to start any discussions that would lead to more education on all of our parts!