Category Archives: FATS


Nutrition And Mental Health

A few months ago I was introduced to a psychologist by the name of Carolyn Rogers and as a result of our mutual professional interests, we became friends quickly. You may be thinking what do nutrition and mental health have to do with each other?  Well actually quite a lot and Carolyn has both an interest and a broad knowledge of nutrition and its application in her particular field. This article is based on the conversations we shared when we recently caught up for lunch (at Paw Paw Café, Woolloongabba for those interested and yes it was tasty.)

Firstly, a bit about Carolyn. She has been a Psychologist for 16 ½ years and she has over 14 years’ experience working with clients to help them manage their weight. She was the Senior Consulting Psychologist for the Wesley Weight Management Clinic for five years and she continues to consult for a Bariatric Surgeon.  Bariatric surgery includes a variety of procedures that reduce the size of the stomach (or remove a portion of the stomach) including lap bands, gastric sleeves and gastric bypassing in order to prompt rapid weight loss by reducing appetite and portion sizes. I will add that prior to studying Psychology, Carolyn was a Registered Nurse for many years so her experience and involvement in healthcare and the medical community is extensive. From her many years of experience working with patients who are overweight, Carolyn has made some interesting observations.

Firstly, Carolyn feels very strongly that weight problems are usually physiological as opposed to psychological. She certainly does not take the viewpoint that her clients should simply exercise greater willpower by eating less and moving more. This realisation was founded many years ago when Carolyn was counselling clients who were placed on a low calorie, liquid diet. She observed that whilst many did lose weight initially they were mostly unable to keep it off. Others, despite following the program accurately, plateaued quickly and weight loss stalled. This prompted Carolyn to look into the work of Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat which opened up a whole new perspective on weight management. These books in a nutshell, attempt to bury the low fat, high carbohydrate message for weight management and good health. They closely examine the role that insulin plays in the regulation of fat storage and the addictive effects of excessive carbohydrate. Carolyn has immersed herself into books and research articles about this topic ever since. She is particularly interested in the capabilities of sugar (fructose in particular) as a highjacker of the appetite suppressing hormones as well as the role that insulin resistance plays in obesity. She believes that the inclusion of good fats and protein and some degree of carbohydrate restriction is critical for long term weight management. In her experience, both binge eating and emotional eating is easier to overcome on a lower carbohydrate high fat diet, which is in fact the opposite of what most weight loss plans and shakes revolve around.

Further to this, Carolyn has an in depth knowledge of specific nutrients and the role these play in behaviour and emotion. In Nutritional Medicine studies, we are very concerned with the role of specific nutrients and the affect that deficiencies may have so it’s always great to meet other allied health professionals who recognise this. Some of the nutrients and herbs that Carolyn is particularly passionate about are outlined below:

  • Magnesium: we are aware that magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions within the human body. Nutritionists will use magnesium in therapeutic combinations and dosages to treat irregular sleep patterns, stress, anxiety, high blood pressure and muscle pain to name just a few. Carolyn encourages all of her clients to take magnesium, particularly those that are highly stressed with poor sleep patterns.
  • Rhodiola: this is a herb that’s available in concentrated capsule form and studies have shown that it may be effective for stress management, mental fatigue and even exercise endurance. This article here discussed the merits of Rhodiola compared with the anti-depressant Zoloft for mild depressive disorder.
  • Zinc: studies have revealed that serum zinc levels tend to be much lower in subjects with mild to moderate depression as discussed by this psychologist here. Zinc together with B6 are essential supplements for those who suffer from Pyroluria, a condition where there is an abnormality in haemoglobin synthesis resulting in mood swings, anxiety and depression.
  • Vitamin D: the oh so important but too often overlooked vitamin D. Adequate vitamin D is critical for mental health. Carolyn prescribes ‘adequate sleep, moderate play in the sunshine and a healthy diet’ to maintain D levels and encourages supplementation to obtain optimal levels if necessary.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly Carolyn is passionate about gut health and the gut / brain connection. The gut is where everything happens. Even a perfect diet is useless if the gut is not healthy because unhealthy microbiome cannot synthesise nutrients. Fact: there is more serotonin produced in the gut than in the brain. Read more about our ‘second brain’ here.

On a final note, Carolyn states that mental health is about looking at the entire person and treating all aspects of the body, mind and the environment. Much the same as our outlook in Nutritional Medicine. It is important that no one point in this article is taken out of context and you must realise that this is general information only, not individual prescription. You need to work with suitably qualified health professionals in order to ascertain a treatment path for you, specific to your condition and your own body. This article was produced by me to once again emphasise the importance that nutrition plays as the foundation of good health and the true power of food especially in concentrated and complementary formulas.  This article is not intended to simplify any 1 health issue or provide a blanket solution. Refining diet and addressing nutritional deficiencies, just like psychology is a long term strategy and requires commitment from both practitioner and client. If you would like to discuss your needs please book in here. You can find out more about Carolyn Rogers at her website and I am sure I will share more about her in future articles.


Treating The Drivers Of A Condition

Last week I wrote an article about Dietary Fat, Cholesterol and Your Heart Health, if you missed it, catch up here. Coincidentally, the last practitioner seminar I attended (Sunday afternoon the 12th of July 2015) was about Cardiovascular Disease and Metabolic conditions (seeing as these 2 go hand in hand). Firstly, I am happy to say that the key concepts I discussed in last week’s article were reiterated at the seminar with extensive research to back these concepts up. There was a great deal of time spent focusing on the following important points:

1. Dietary fat does not cause CVD (cardiovascular disease):“From the original Farmingham study to the Women’s Health Initiative, as well as more than a dozen additional studies, have failed to show an association between dietary lipids and risk of CVD. The very strong recommendations from health agencies predicted that none of these trials should fail. In fact, almost all of them have failed.” (Fienman RD et. al. Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: critical review and evidence based Nutrition. 2015 Jan 31st (1) 1-13)

2. Cholesterol levels are not raised by diet: A study over 3 months compared 2 groups of individuals, about 70 individuals in each group. 1 group consumed in excess of 2 eggs per day, the other group consumed less than 2 eggs per week. No between-group differences were shown for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides or glycemic control. This is certainly not the first and only study of its kind.

3. Inflammation as a key driver for high cholesterol: this was by far the most interesting part of the seminar. As I mentioned last week in my article, cholesterol has protective properties against inflammation and infection. One of the most common infectious drivers that may elevate cholesterol is dental infection, making oral hygiene of the utmost importance. Hence I ask clients with sudden elevation in cholesterol levels, ‘when did you last see a dentist!?’

I believe, along with many other health professionals (hence why there are many books published on this topic) it’s very important to share this information. Why? Because I think we are doing a great job at treating symptoms (extremely important!) but we are not looking at the key drivers of a condition. For example, drugs and supplements can bring down dangerously elevated cholesterol. Great. BUT how often are we stopping and thinking ‘why has that actually occurred in the first place?’ If we don’t treat the driver of the condition, it will manifest as another symptom and the overall health of that particular client will continue to decline. I see this in clinic a lot… if a client has elevated blood cholesterol, this has always been accompanied by at least 2 other complications as well, such as high blood pressure, thyroid imbalances etc.

This article does not replace medication or whatever other precautions you may currently be prescribed for whatever symptom you may have. However, symptomatic treatment needs to come hand in hand with a long term strategy to firstly ascertain the actual cause and secondly correct the cause. Some long term correctional strategies may include looking at diet, specific nutritional deficiencies (e.g. magnesium is a big one), stress, sleep disturbances, bacterial infections, fitness, muscle / fat ratio and dental health. I would say long term term wellness would be my ultimate goal with all of my clients. Sometimes, they don’t come to me with the goal of ‘near perfect health’ it may be 1 simple symptom they want to fix, but I have other ideas ;). It’s a ‘1 step at a time’ process but if they stick with me, we get there in the end! I will add that I don’t buy into the whole ‘you’re just getting old’ thing and so its inevitable that your health will decline. No, this is NOT acceptable.

Again, please do not take this article as individual advice because its not. Instead if it applies to you, ask yourself what long term lifestyle, nutritional, stress management and exercise strategies you may be putting in place to improve your markers in the long run because these are some of things you may be able to look at incorporating on your own. If you are stuck or its more complex, then book in with mefor consultations please. Investing in your own long term health NOW could save you a LOT of issues down the track.

In closing, let’s return to that point around inflammation as a driver of cholesterol and in particular the idea that periodontal disease may drive up biomarkers. If this is the first time you have heard of this and you are thinking ‘whaaaattt?’ check out the link to this medical article here. And now you need to start to realise that we are all just one big jigsaw puzzle. If you make a mistake with one piece of the puzzle, then its impossible to get the whole puzzle complete, correct? Same with the body. It’s INTERCONNECTED. It’s 1 SYSTEM. You can not just throw a band aid over 1 problem and hope it goes away because it’s going to manifest somewhere else and that may be physical and emotional. FIX it. Strive for the BEST version of YOU. Do what you can every single day to make good choices for a long, happy and healthy life.

Puzzle human


Debunking Fats (Part 2): Dietary Fat, Cholesterol And Your Heart Health

Every client I have ever seen does have some degree of ‘fat phobia’ going on. Totally understandable. After all, Big Food has profited from selling us low fat, sugar and preservative laden products for the last 40 years and through clever advertising & manipulation of data, they have convinced us that this is the way to true health. Enough ranting on that one. Please keep in mind that this information has now well and truly been put in its rightful place and fats are being recognised for their importance in the diet. Remember the latest statement from the American association of Nutrition and Dietetics included this point: “It is also noteworthy that not a single study included in the review for cardiovascular disease is reported to have identified saturated fat as having an unfavourable association with cardiovascular disease.”
One of the concerns that that comes up often is around cholesterol, specifically that serum cholesterol will rise with more dietary cholesterol ineggs the diet. This topic really warrants a longer explanation, but I begin by reminding clients that cholesterol is critical in the body. If we had none of it, we would be dead. It has protective properties, it is involved with immunity, it fights off infections, its essential for all our hormones, we need it to create vitamin D and it even assists with serotonin levels in the brain. Too much of anything of course can always be a bad thing, but first let’s acknowledge that we need it and it doesn’t deserve to be completely vilified. Secondly, it is really important to understand that we have inbuilt mechanisms within our body to regulate our own cholesterol levels; we have mechanisms like this to regulate all essential nutrients and processes. Each and every one of us is able to make cholesterol within the body when it is needed. The other way we can get cholesterol is of course through diet. However, eating dietary cholesterol doesn’t necessarily drive up cholesterol markers, it simply gives the body a bit of a break because it doesn’t have to produce as much on its own. Here’s a direct quote extracted from one of my favourite nutrition books ‘Cholesterol Clarity, (p30).’

“We have a certain need for cholesterol and we regulate that need fairly tightly. So if we eat a lot of cholesterol, our bodies make less of it; if we eat less cholesterol, our bodies make more of it. In most people, the majority of cholesterol that is circulating in their blood is made by their own bodies. The amount of cholesterol containing foods they eat isn’t going to have a big impact on their blood cholesterol levels. It can vary from person to person, but in general cholesterol in your diet is never the major determinant of cholesterol levels in the blood or in the body.” Dr Chris Masterjon

There are a couple of ways to manipulate diet in order to bring down dangerously high triglyceride levels and elevated small dense LDL cholesterol. However, reducing natural and anti-inflammatory fats in the diet is not one of them. In my experience treating clients, dietary changes that include eating more fat but less highly refined carbohydrates,  their cholesterol markers have shown improvement. I see this on paper in front of me, in black and white when they bring in their blood tests and their levels are down. In addition, please remember that the most dangerous state of health is high inflammation within the body. Inflammation leads to heart disease, arterial plaque build up and is now even being linked with mood disorders and depression. Persistent inflammation results from  ‘yo yoing’ sugar levels in the body. This sugar roller-coaster effect is precisely what occurs on a low fat diet rich in starchy and sugary carbohydrates and artificial trans fats. You may need to catch up on my article on Fats and Oils if I just lost you.
Elevated cholesterol happens for a reason. It might not be your diet, it may be the sign of an infection. One of the most common types of infection that can elevate cholesterol levels is in the mouth, so have your teeth checked regularly and ensure your dental hygiene is up to scratch. In addition, treat the high cholesterol of course, but find out the reason for it and always aim to treat the cause in addition to the symptom. The natural way of the body is to be in balance. If something is not being self regulated there is a reason for that and we need to determine it and change our environment in some way accordingly.

Please consult with a Medical Doctor as well as a Nutritionist or similar who can manipulate diet and lifestyle in a healthy way to achieve optimal results.


Debunking Fats (Part 1): All About Cooking Fats And Oils

This is the first of a 3 part series, designed to help you distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats. My mission is to convince you once and for all that fat does not deserve to be vilified and the days of fearing fat are over….and…. wait for it…. I’ll bet you need more of this good stuff in your diet!

Let’s start with cooking fats and oils because that’s where I see a lot of confusion in my clinic. I could go on about this topic for a long time, but as per usual, with respect for your time and mine I will keep it concise. Please use the references provided and do your own research. Knowledge is empowerment.

Getting the right cooking fats and oils in your kitchen is a kitchen basic 101. It can make a massive difference to the health of your family as you are about to find out. If you are still struggling with the idea of fat as an essential nutrient, read my article entitled What the Fat here. First, let’s consider the physiology of the body and a few very key reasons why the body requires fat for normal healthy bodily functions:

For years, you have been listening to the old ‘swap butter for margarine’ story and get rid of all the saturated fats. Replace these with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils and you will be well on your way to a clean bill of heart health. Well, as a nation, I can’t say we are looking too healthy right now so let’s really have a look at the variety of cooking fats and oils on offer, under the microscope. Before we delve in too deep, please consider these 2 key points:

-Saturated fat together with Omega 3 fatty acids comprise the lipid membrane surrounding our cells. These 2 in balance make for a beautiful, healthy lipid membrane that allows proper exchange of nutrients and waste in and out of our cells. This is nutrition on a fundamental level. Without this process occurring efficiently, optimal health is impossible. (Fallon, S. 2000, read more)

-The Omega 3 to omega 6 ratio within the body is now universally recognized as fundamentally important. According to this PubMedarticle, humans evolved on a diet consisting of a 1:1 omega 3 to omega 6 ratio. The typical Western diet today consists of a 1:16 ratio (average). Elevated omega 6 is largely recognized as a major driver of inflammation, which is the basis for chronic disease. As you will read in the beforementioned PubMed article, it has been linked with all kinds of conditions including asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancers and arthritis. Directly quoting from this article; “A lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies, as well as in the developing countries.”

Now let’s take a really close look at common household cooking fats and oils. I have written these analyses without bias. My objective is to give you the facts and in turn you can make your decisions also using the resources provided. Of course if you are or become a client of mine, then I do give you strong recommendations. And I have provided some of my opinions below the analyses so read on if you want to know my take on these products. I have missed some of course: I don’t have that much time on my hands! Contact me if you want my opinion on any 1 particular oil.

Canola Oil

Production: The canola plant was developed from the hybridization of rape seed in the 70s. Rape seed contained extremely harmful levels of erucic acid and thus an alternative was needed.  The canola plan contains less than 2% harmful erucic acid content (this passes the FDA’s recommendations). The canola plant produces seeds, which yield both the oil and canola meal. To extract the oil the seed is heated to extreme temperatures and pressed and then finally undergoes further processing to enhance its colour, flavour and shelf life. By genetic modification methods Canola is now herbicide resistant and many sources I have read recently argue that there is no non-GMO sources of canola left in the world today.

Characteristics: Low in saturated fat. 11% omega 3 and 21% omega 6 fatty acid. Over 60% oleic acid content (omega 9). Contains 0.2% trans fatty acids (Government figures: Some sources suggest this may be higher).Smoke point is about 200 degrees Celsius (mainly due to it being highly processed)

Further information / resources: Soyatech Canola Facts / Authority Nutrition

Vegetable Oil

Production: The term vegetable oil blankets any seed oil including canola oil (above) as well as rice bran oil, grapeseed oil,  sunflower oil and soybean oil. The process is similar to that described above but I did choose to focus individually on Conola oil as it is really in the spotlight at the moment. Vegetable oils were largely non-existent until the 1920s. The oil seeds are firstly sterilised and boiled once they are harvested to deactivate enzymes which cause degradation of the oils. They then undergo roasting to liquefy the oil within the cells. The final process involves either dehydration, extraction or pressing to separate the oil from the rest of the nut or seed. Further refining then occurs to ensure the resulting oil is both bland and pale in colour. This may involve bleaching to remove undesirabled colours, deoderisation by steam distillation and neutralising any free fatty acids with  sodium hydroxide solution

Characteristics: Smoking point between 200 (Grapeseed) and 260 degrees Celsius (Rice bran oil). High in polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated fats. Between 50 and 70% omega 6 content. Roughly 10 – 15 % omega 3 content.

Further information / Resources:Toxic Oil (David Gillespie) FAO Corporate Document Authority Nutrition 

Peanut Oil

Production: Made via the pressing of peanuts to extract the oil. Noting that cold pressed peanut oil has a deep colour whilst highly refined peanut oil will be lighter and less flavoursome. Please note that a peanut is not a true nut, it’s actually a legume.

Characteristics: Contains saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in this ratio: 18: 49: 33. High smoking point and long shelf life. Contains no cholesterol. Contains both Resveratrol and vitamin E. Mainly omega 6 and 9, little omega 3 content. Flavours Asian dishes

Further information / Resources: Mercola / Proteco Oils 

Olive Oil

Production: Olives are cleaned and washed, all twigs and leaves are removed. They are then crushed into a paste and mixed for up to 45 minutes which encourages the oil to conglomerate. Note that heat may be added at this time, but that reduces the quality. The resulting oil, water and solids are then separated by centrifuge. Finally alkalising, bleaching or steaming the oil may be necessary but only if the olive oil is of poor origins.

Characteristics: High in phenolic acid, a distinct antioxidant. Also high in Vitamin E and K. 14% saturated fat, 73% monounsaturated fat, including oleic acid (which may reduce inflammatory markers) and 10% omega 6. Smoking point is debatable, some sources say it is low others say it is up at around 180 degrees Celsius.

Further information / resources: Olive oil source / Authority Nutrition

Coconut Oil

Production: Coconut oil is cold pressed or centrifuged from the coconut itself. Processing varies then depending on whether it is refined or virgin coconut oil. Refined coconut oil may be subjected to chemical distillation, bleached and deoderised like vegetable oils. Virgin coconut oil can be subject to some heat whilst extracting but not enough for the oil to go rancid. The less refined brands will have a milder flavour. The more heat it is subjected to it seems the more ‘toasted’ the coconut becomes and thus the flavour is stronger. 

Characteristics: Close to 90% saturated fat content. Mainly medium chain triglycerides which head straight to the liver and are burnt off effectively as an energy source. Lots of Lauric Acid, with antibacterial properties. Smoke point 180 degrees Celsius

Further information / resources: Authority Nutrition Food renegade Mercola The Sceptical Nutritionist 


Production: Milk is turned into cream, legal pasteurisation occurs to kill any bacteria. The cream is aged and held at a cool temperature for butter crystals to form, cultures may be added at this point and fermented for extra flavour and aroma. Churning takes place, buttermilk is then drained and salt may be added at this time. Butter is then stored and packed for commercial use.

Characteristics: Lots of fat soluble vitamins including A, E and K2 (essential for bone health). Mostly saturated fats, some long and medium chain fats too. A source of butyrate which is important for mitochondrial energy as well as being anti-inflammatory. Contains linoleic acid, which is widely accepted to be excellent for the metabolism and ‘fat burning’ in itself. 

Further information / resources: Butter production / Authority nutritionButter v margarine 

My opinion

Let’s now reconsider those 2 key points that I raised above. One was pertaining to the composition of our cell membranes and the other was about the dangers of a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio in the diet. With consideration for these 2 points alone, I suggest you think quite hard about using both canola oil and vegetable oil in your kitchen because both are very high in omega 6. We know with absolute certainty that high omega 6 drives inflammation which drives disease. In addition, if we take a look at the processing of those two products, there is nothing real or natural about it on any level and obviously this goes again my entire philosophy. These articles by Kris Gunners (Medical student / well respected nutritional advisor) the Weston A Price Foundation and David Gillespie go into much more detail about the dangers of these highly processed, cheap, hydrogenated oils. I also suggest doing some good old Google searching for yourself, because more and more information is coming to light. Bottom line – question every packet with a health claim.

Coconut oil and butter have been vilified for such a long time for their high saturated fat an cholesterol content. What we now know is that saturated fat was never the problem in the first place and dietary cholesterol isn’t either. Still don’t believe me? Read this very long and very professional document released by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on the 8th of May 2015. Directly quoting:

1. “The Academy supports the decision by the 2015 DGAC not to carry forward previous recommendations that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day, as “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol.” and

2. “It is also noteworthy that not a single study included in the review for cardiovascular disease is reported to have identified saturated fat as having an unfavorable association with cardiovascular disease.”

In addition, I stress again that our cell membranes are comprised of omega 3 fats and saturated fats. When we take in products like vegetable oils that are highly processed and partially hydrogenated, these fats then become a part of our cell membranes (remember that cells are constantly being remade within the body and if good natural fats are unavailable, other fats are needed instead).  When the cell membranes are comprised of ‘unnatural’ fats the membrane can’t function optimally. It becomes rigid and does not allow for efficient passage of nutrients in and waste products out. For more on this, read a medical team’s perspective here.


For these reasons, I prefer coconut oil and butter. You must also recognise that these 2 products are super concentrated with fat soluble vitamins and other super nutrients as already mentioned: Lauric acid and Linoleic acid. As for olive oil, the health benefits have never been disputed for this winner although I prefer not to cook with it – it has been hailed for lowering LDL cholesterol, having loads of antioxidants and lowering chronic inflammation. Cold pressed peanut oil I am sitting on the fence…. it can be a handy one to have around because it flavours Asian dishes nicely and can be used at super high heats. However, I do stress the importance of buying good quality, cold pressed peanut oil if you choose to stock it and using only on occasion due to its high omega 6 content.

For your information, this is what you will find in my kitchen:

-Coconut oil and grass fed butter, usually organic (please note that all butter from NZ is grass fed so you can’t go wrong there). I use these 2 for cooking.

-Extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil for dressing salads. Sometimes I brush vegetables with olive oil before roasting but I don’t use it for frying (mainly because I don’t like the flavour as much as coconut oil and butter plus I feel the jury is still out about the smoking point).

-Macadamia oil and avocado oil may also be found in my pantry. Macadamia oil can be used for pan frying as it does have a high smoke point and it has a superior omega 3 to 6 ratio; the best of all nuts in fact. Both are divine for dressing salads. Most cold pressed nut oils have lovely, delicate flavours and are nice for drizzling over foods. I sometimes have sesame oil too, but only for throwing on stir fries right at the end – its not good at heat, which means it can turn rancid quite quickly if subjected to high temperatures.

Unfortunately we do have a tendency to look at price tags (I can understand this!) and the nastier oils are the cheapest of course. But, as I continue to say, spend that little bit more money and buy your good quality fats and they add flavour on their own! You will save money at the end of the day because you will no longer need packaged sauces to add flavour. I also stress that every oil you buy should be virgin cold pressed. As you can see from my analysis, even coconut oil can go through some nasty processing when it is not in its rawest form.

Let’s keep it real. You will save oodles of money on your health in the long run if you can change your nutrition and lifestyle habits today.