I would like to change gears this month and revisit some important nutrition issues. Dietary fat always seems to be an issue for many people, so let’s talk about fat and some of its important functions in our bodies, specifically, hormones. I will try and cover the few benefits of a high fat diet versus the many benefits of a low to moderately low fat diet as they apply to hormone levels. The two hormones that will focus on are testosterone and estrogen. Research has found that a diet high in fat increases total testosterone and free estrogen. The increase in these hormones has been linked to numerous cancers such as prostatic and breast cancer. The amount of fat corresponding to a “high” amount is approximately 40% of the diet. This amount will be less detrimental if carbohydrate consumption is kept to a minimum (~5-10%), but, low carbohydrate consumption has its problems and shouldn’t be maintained. The only positive aspect relating to a high fat intake would concern weight lifters trying to gain more muscle mass. A reason for this may be that an increase in fat allows for more cholesterol production to take place. You see, cholesterol is a precursor for the sex hormones that we value so deeply! Simply put; don’t cut your fat intake down too far when you are trying to gain muscle. It’s probably safe to say that fats should be kept around 25-30% of the diet (<10% from saturated fats). Saturated fats include those fats that stay solid at room temperature, which are primarily animal fats. Keeping fat intake too low (~5%) will also cause other problems such as depression of the immune system, nervous system and decreased blood platelet aggregation due to low prostaglandin levels. A few good sources of fat are fish, safflower oil, canola oil, olive oil, flax seed oil, and natural peanut butter. A few of these choices contain essential fatty acids, which we need. So, please don’t fear all fats!

D. M. Ingram, et al..”Effect of Low-Fat Diet on Female Sex Hormone Levels,” JNCI 79.6 (1987): 1225-1229
E. K. Hamalainen, et al., “Decrease of Serum Total and Free Testosterone During a Low-Fat, High Fiber Diet,” J. Steroid Biochem. 18.3 (1983): 369-370.

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