When it comes to the macronutrient breakdown of a diet, most are only concerned with whether we are eating too much or too little fat. We think fat is bad for us and should eat as little of it as possible. While dietary fats have a bad reputation due to their excess being linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and various other ailments, a complete lack of fat in your diet and body can also result in serious health problems.
Why does your body require fat?
According to a 2017 study published in the Nutrition Journal, what confuses consumers is unclear about which fats are bad and which aren’t. While science shows that eating saturated and trans fats cause cardiovascular and other diseases, most people interpret this to mean that they should avoid fats. However, fats are essential nutrients, and your body requires many essential fatty acids to function correctly.
While you may be more concerned with including a variety of vitamin-rich foods in your diet, you should be aware that none of them will be absorbed into your body if you don’t consume enough monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Most vitamins, including A, D, E, and K, are fat-soluble. Fatty acids are also required for proper eye and brain function, blood clotting and wound healing and the production of hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen.
What to look for if you have a fat deficiency?
As essential fatty acids are so crucial to your body’s functioning, a fat deficiency is likely to manifest itself in various ways. The following are the key indicators you should be on the lookout for.
Prostaglandins are fat molecules that are essential for hair growth and health. When you don’t eat enough fats, your hair follicles and shaft suffer. This invariably results in hair loss and other problems.
Immunity is low
If you’re eating vegetables, fruits, and even some carbs but still getting sick, it’s time to see if your fat needs are being met. Because a lack of fat indicates malabsorption, your body isn’t getting enough nutrients even if you eat them, which weakens your immune system. If you eat a lot of nuts and seeds, your fat deficiency will most likely resolve and lead to better health.
Once again, the undeniable link between fat deficiency and the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants causes a problem like fatigue. Aside from a lack of these essential nutrients, a lack of satiety caused by a fat deficiency can lead to both physical and mental fatigue.
Sufficient vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, B12, and selenium, are essential for the proper functioning of your endocrine system, which produces hormones. Fat deficiency indicates that you aren’t getting enough of these nutrients, which means your hormones are probably out of whack. It can cause irregularities in the menstrual cycle in women, but it can also affect sexual and mental functions in both genders.
According to a study published in Acta Paediatrica in 1962, the skin is the most obviously impaired due to fat deficiency, and this finding holds even decades later. Your skin is more likely to be inflamed and swollen, but you may also develop scaly or dry rashes, which are commonly associated with dermatitis.
“Fat provides satiety,” Stoler says. If you’re eating but still feeling hungry, it could be because you’re not getting enough fat in your diet. “There was something we used to call the ‘SnackWell’s Syndrome,'” Stoler says. “Many people would eat the entire ‘fat-free’ box of cookies because they didn’t feel full – even though they were still overeating.” Dr Gerbstadt suggests that if you’re eating but still hungry, you may be eating too few calories or not enough fibre.
Body temperature regulation is poor
According to Stoler, people with low body fat or who do not consume enough fat in their diets frequently complain of being cold. “I see this with anorexics all the time,” she adds. Dr Gerbstadt agrees that being underweight can cause you to feel cold; however, she adds that other possible causes include having a low-performing thyroid or a peripheral vascular disease.
Menstrual cycle disruption
According to Dr Gerbstadt, while over-exercising and other hormonal imbalances are other potential causes of missing your period, a low body-fat percentage (less than 10 or 12 per cent) can stop your cycle. “Mother Nature tells you that your body isn’t well-nourished enough to support a pregnancy,” Stoler explains.
“It’s a serious health concern because it induces an almost menopausal state in which bone density decreases and puts you at risk for fractures.” Suppose you recognise yourself in this last point. In that case, we hope you’ll schedule an appointment with your doctor, and if you believe you need more assistance with your eating habits, please visit national eating disorders.org, where you can learn more about eating disorders.
You need a well-balanced diet to stay healthy, and fat is part of that. Clarke and Jarosh recommend a daily diet that balances carbohydrates, protein, and fat in the following proportions: 45-60% carbs, 10-25% protein, and 25-35 fat, depending on what works best for you.