This post was originally published on September 28, 2015 and updated on June 26, 2020.

Americans’ misunderstanding about dietary fats may be causing parents to withhold this essential food group from their children’s diets. Beverly Yates, ND, presenting at the August 2015 Palm International Nutra-Cosmeceutical Conference (PINC), says kids need healthy fats, such as nutrient-rich Malaysian sustainable palm oil. Here are the naturopathic physician’s responses to questions about fats.

Q: Fats have been in the news a lot, especially the dangers of trans fats. What are you seeing in your practice?
Dr. Yates: In the USA, people’s awareness is increasing around fats, but there’s so much misunderstanding and misperception. I feel we have at least five to ten years of work to do in communicating accurate facts about fats, and why they are actually good for you.

Yates Women and Dietary Patterns slide

Q: Why does your concern revolve around women’s and kids’ fat consumption?
Dr. Yates: Women are more likely to restrict calories, especially fats, at some point in their lifetime as part of a weight management or weight loss strategy. As a result, women may be more susceptible to immune problems based on that set of habits. Women also may avoid fats of all kinds in their diet, thinking they are being healthy and avoiding heart disease, but in reality they may be setting themselves up for those problems, as well as compromising brain health.

Parents sometimes limit their kids’ fat consumption. Where I live, it is not uncommon for women to restrict the fat calories of their daughters, often at the time of puberty. I wonder if that isn’t the tipping point for future problems. I am alarmed at the misplaced obsession with decreasing fat, instead of emphasizing healthy fat. We have to use publicity and promotion to get people who are making food choices for their families to understand that fats are good. They don’t need to be afraid of them.

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Q: What issues can arise from lack of healthy fats in a diet?
Dr. Yates: Healthy fats such as Malaysian sustainable palm oil are rich in brain- and skin-healthy nutrients. Palm oil also has a balanced fatty acid profile which supports cardiovascular health. When you are deprived from fat’s healthy constituents — In palm oil, this includes carotenoids, phenolics and tocotrienols – the imbalance could set up future problems. If women are more vulnerable, we have to get the word out.

Yates Women and Dietary Patterns slide 2

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics says fat is an essential nutrient for children. It provides energy for growth and play and should not be severely restricted. As a general guideline, fat should make up 30 percent of the calories in a child’s diet. Other health experts have shared Yate’s concern over Americans’ misunderstanding of fat and its effect on health.

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