I will be leaving on vacation for a few days from Wednesday through Sunday for the Thanksgiving holiday to be with my family and see my brother Kevin, so I wanted to keep you busy for several days and give you a reason to come back and read the blog for the rest of the week.
The following is probably the most detailed defense for consuming fat you will ever read as you learn why this most vilified macronutrient is an extremely important part of a healthy diet.
This will become a virtual primer on fat for anyone who is livin’ la vida low-carb, so I encourage you to print it out and keep it handy. You will become empowered with factual knowledge that can change the hearts and minds of those who believe fat is the great “evil” in the nutritional realm. Once you are finished with this brilliant column, you’ll know better!
Don’t just read it–ABSORB it, allow it to seep in to the empty crevices of your mind, open your eyes to thoughts and ideas you never really paid attention to previously. This is deep which is why you have five days to eat it up. ENJOY!
NOTE: Much of this column was lifted directly from the writings by the UK’s Dr. Barry Groves, Australian independent researcher Anthony Colpo, and the comprehensive and detailed nutritional info from Dr. Weston A. Price. For further data, please consult these fantastic resources early and often. They do an invaluable service to the message of livin’ la vida low-carb.
“For every problem there is a solution, neat, plausible and wrong.”
H. L. Mencken
“I can confidently state that quantity of diet may safely be left to the natural appetite; and that it is quality only which is essential to abate and cure corpulence… These important desiderata have been attained by the most easy and comfortable means… by a system of diet, that formerly I should have thought dangerously generous.”
Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public: William Banting, 1862, London
“Humans achieve optimal physical form and health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators, such as vitamins A and D, found exclusively in animal foods.”
Dr. Weston Price
“There is no doubt that although fats are blamed for most diseases today, there is much compelling evidence that carbohydrates are the real culprits… [and] the fact that simple carbohydrates (sugars) and non-starch polysaccharides (fiber) have both been shown to be harmful in terms of increased cancer risk; and that ALL carbohydrates, including starches, have been shown to increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, is already sufficient reason to eat foods such as bread, pasta and starchy vegetables with care”
Famous nutritional scientist (anonymous)
“The food industry’s major objective is to get us to intake more food. And the TV industry’s objective is to get us to watch more television, to be sedentary. Advertising is the action that keeps them both successful. So you’ve got two huge industries being successful at what they are supposed to do: creating more intake and less activity. And since larger people require more food energy just to sustain themselves, the food industry is growing a larger market for itself.”
Dr. E. Gortmaker
“Fat is the most valuable food known to Man.”
Professor Dr. John Yudkin
“Study history! Study history!”
Sir Winston S. Churchill
“They used to grow food in Kansas,?Now they want to grow it on the moon ?and eat it raw.?I can see the day coming when even ?your home garden?Is gonna be against the law.”
Bob Dylan, “Union Sundown”
The author of this article would like to thank the Weston Price Foundation, Dr. Barry Groves, and Anthony Colpo for their invaluable research publications and information.
Fallacies and Fat facts: an introduction
Ever heard the statement that “any project the Government pokes it’s nose into, inevitably turns into a disaster”? Although I realize that cynicism is a slow poison, I really do believe this statement, generally speaking, is true. One of the most convincing examples of this can be found in nutritional science. Government, of course, has not a clue of nutritional science, but that hasn’t stopped them from make a fool of themselves – at our (health) expense. But what is more dangerous and more important is the fact that the result has been the current and sharp decline of public health in America and most of the Western world.
The damage and fallout of these colossal blunders has already cost countless billions of dollars, and still will cost several hundreds of billions of dollars more in the years to come. Even if we somehow, magically, could undo this damage today, the fallout would continue to make victims and costs for decades to come.
How did we sink this far?
In 1969, the so-called White House Conference produced the New Foods Document, which heavily promoted the acceptance of fake, engineered foods as if they were real foods. This fact alone has directly resulted in a major decline in the quality of our foods and especially in the quality of the fats we consume. It has led to the open promotion of genetically-modified foods that suit the production of processed fats, and has also led to a decline in quality and use of farm-produced fats. The results have been nothing but disastrous.
The media is also responsible for the obesity and diabetes epidemic in a big way. How many times have we not seen published the pearls of wisdom of some self-appointed dietary “expert” that there is no “long term guarantee for the safety of low-carb diets”? I am sure we all, at some point in time, have heard such mindless babblings.
As is so often the case, especially when the media reports it, the exact opposite is true. Low-carb diets have an unparalleled safety track record of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years: whilst low-fat/high carb diets have no safety track record whatsoever – let alone, and indeed most alarming, even a basic foundation in nutritional science.
It is a hard fact that even before the dawn of civilization man has been evolving, thriving and surviving on a low-carb or controlled-carb dietary regimen. Those people did not follow such a dietary regimen out of choice: the simple fact was, of course, that in those days no processed, sugar-laden, starchy junk foods were available – anywhere. They simply consumed what Nature provided and what they knew was good for them. That’s a rock-solid scientific fact, carefully recorded in anthropological journals and papers, and observed by some of the greatest scientific minds in the history of anthropology – a few of which are mentioned in the above introduction.
From the ancients…
Ranging from the ancient Greeks, the Hebrews, the Egyptians as well as other ancient peoples to the beginning of the 20th century we know from their various writings – including the Bible and Koran – that fat meats and especially animal fat in itself were always amongst the highest priced and valued parts of animal foods. Vegetables were considered inferior by far to meats and other quality protein sources. Northern European peoples preserved their preferences for fatty meats in their various Scandinavian Eddas and Sagas. Icelandic poems praise the fat and marrow of animal foods. Indeed, also in more modern times we find this trend.
The Norwegian explorer and scientist, Dr Carl Lumholtz (1851-1922), reported that the same was true in the southern hemisphere. When he was with the tropical forest-dwelling Aborigines of northern Australia, Lumholtz tells how they lived mainly on animal food, and never ate anythi
ng from a plant source if fatty meats were available. Lumholtz also noted that the Aborigines ate their meals in the same way that children will: they ate the best things first – that was always meat, and the fatter the meat the better.
Sir Hubert Wilkins (1888-1958), Australia’s most famous explorer, conducted a two-year expedition for the British Museum in northern Australia. Wilkins, among other things, confirmed Lumholtz’s findings. And, of course, it is no secret that peoples further north, the Lapps and Saami of northern Scandinavia, the peoples of Siberia, the Inuit of Greenland and the Canadian north live entirely on animals and fish, even today. As do many peoples in the tropics: the Maasai, Samburu, Marsh Arabs, Berbers and so on. When Christianity spread northward, the Biblical phrase “to live on the fat of the land” was readily understood across Europe. In English speech fat food was called “rich” food. This was the highest praise. The fattest meat was regarded as the best in most religions and in all countries. Indeed ancient peoples around the world seem to praise fat meat and sweet wine – and nothing else.
And that has continued right up to modern times. The Inuit (Eskimos) today in their natural habitat practically do not eat vegetable matter. They live instead wholly on seal meat, caribou and fish; and they are among the healthiest people on earth. Only when they start eating the starch and sugar brought by the European does their health decline.??Similarly, up until the end of the nineteenth century, the North American Indians lived almost exclusively on the meat of the buffalo, either fresh or made into pemmican; and it was pemmican which enabled the European pioneers and settlers to open up North America. Pemmican is lean meat, dried and pulverized, then mixed with an equal amount of rendered fat – and that’s all. This mixture provided 80 percent of calories from fat and 20 percent from protein. Pemmican was generally preferred to fresh meat and was eaten at a rate of up to one kilogram per day by men who worked hard for up to sixteen hours a day. They remained completely healthy and they performed absolutely fantastic feats of endurance on this ultra-low-carb diet. ??There are others like them who live long, healthy lives on a diet which would cause today’s western nutritionist to shudder: the Nagas on the India/Burma border, a wiry people who live by hunting pigs and jungle bison; the Maasai tribes of Africa who eat only the blood and milk, and occasionally meat, of their cattle; the Argentinean gaucho of European extraction, nearest to the Inuit as they too are almost exclusively meat eaters. After the gaucho, Australians ate more meat and fatter meat than any other people of European descent. Argentinean and Australian life-expectancy has traditionally been longer than in the industrialized nations of the northern hemisphere – although it has been observed that as Australians assume our way of eating, their health is declining.
To the modern…
Obviously, it is abundantly clear from the historical and anthropological record that fat and fatty meats have always played a major role in the diet of peoples of every inhabited continent across the globe from the Arctic to the Equator and from primitive to civilized. In 1957, the late Dr John Yudkin, when Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at London University, called fat “the most valuable food known to Man” in a foreword to Dr Richard Mackarness’s book, Eat Fat and Grow Slim.
Modern man would be well-advised to keep in mind what we are genetically programmed to eat.
When we look in that direction we find that, genetically, we are still very similar to the hunter-gatherers of the late Palaeolithic era: the human gene pool has changed little since anatomically modern humans, Homo Sapiens, became widespread about 35,000 years ago. And from a genetic standpoint, we are still genetically late Palaeolithic pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers. Because of this genetic similarity, the diet of Palaeolithic times is relevant. Anthropological studies – studies of real peoples in real situations – such as those conducted by Dr Weston A. Price, Dr Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Admiral Peary, and many others during the last two centuries are still extremely relevant, especially in our “modern” times with our “modern” diseases. Not only have we lost the benefits from the fats we used to eat, we have replaced them with sources which are quite alien to our diet – polyunsaturated vegetable oils and margarines, and lots of starchy and sugary foods. The evidence for the fact that the very diet we call “healthy” today is probably as unhealthy as it can get is overwhelming.
Other sources of disease in our modern diet are soft-drinks: the detrimental effect of just one can per day of sugary soft-drinks is well known: the most commonly associated health risks are obesity, diabetes and other blood sugar disorders, tooth decay, osteoporosis and bone fractures, nutritional deficiencies, heart disease, food addictions and eating disorders, neurotransmitter dysfunction from chemical sweeteners, and neurological and adrenal disorders from excessive caffeine. And that’s just 1 (one) can of soft-drinks a day – the average US consumer gulps much more of the stuff away. Most scientists acknowledge these well-documented facts. But of course the soft-drink companies deny it: as recently as 2004 their intensive lobbying campaign paid off and the US government rejected the WHO’s recommendations to lower the intake of dietary sugar from 25% of calories [sic!] to 10%.
According to the bureaucrats and the companies, 25% of daily calories from sugar is completely acceptable in a healthy diet. A total travesty indeed – even the WHO-recommended 10% is way too much, as any reasonably intelligent individual immediately recognizes. But, then again, what else can we expect from Government? Certainly not that what is good for the people.
Are you seriously expecting real answers from totally uninterested, uneducated people?
But alas, most nutritionists, dietitians and the Government of course are still in full denial of all these facts. But then again, apparently a 5-hour course can make one a certified nutritionist and/or dietitian. And I suppose it’s even easier to become a Government bureaucrat. Why people listen to any of these groups, frankly, is beyond me.??We should not be looking for answers to the diseases we suffer from today from these persons and institutes, but instead we should wonder why many peoples in the world don’t get any of our diseases at all. That way, and many researchers believe only that way, we might stand a better chance of an answer to the dreadful plague of ill-health we are beset with.
So what happened?
Fifty years ago, grocery stores stocked about 200 items. Seventy percent of those were grown, produced or processed within a 100-mile radius of the store. Today, the average supermarket carries 50,000 food items or more; and what is worse – most of these foods are highly processed and refined and are transported thousands of miles to their final destination. Americans and increasingly also Asians and Europeans spend over 90 percent of their food budget on this processed junk – junk-foods in the truest sense of the word: foods that contain high levels of refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, white flour completely devoid of any and all nutrients, refined polyunsaturated oils and trans fatty acids, plus a nice dose of excitotoxins such as MSG and aspartame, as well as highly processed protein isolates. The logical result of these nutrient-depleted foods is that we humans have to consume much more of them to satisfy the body’s basic nutritional requirements. That is, of course, one of the reasons why, while the consumption of fats in the SAD-CRAP diet (the Standard American Diet – Cereals Refined And Processed) has gone down, the total number of calories ingested has gone
up dramatically at the same time.
The currently feverishly worshiped geometric nutritional abnormality, the USDA Food Pyramid, strongly favors a low-fat, (very) high-carbohydrate diet. Ironically, the caloric proportions of proteins, fats and carbohydrates advocated by USDA’s Food Pyramid and Dietary Guidelines are alarmingly similar to that same USDA’s guidelines for fattening cattle and other livestock! It is very clear that the Food Pyramid has nothing to do with the health of the unsuspecting populace but instead has everything to do with the vested interests of this bureaucratic behemoth itself, as well as the (agricultural) interests it represents. It’s a complete riddle why anybody would take notice of the Food Pyramid: it has nothing to do with credible nutritional science nor does it even remotely meet your basic dietary needs. It is merely a simplistic propaganda tool for people that like to oversimplify things, like politicians and other professional and/or pathological liars.
Only during the last century has man’s diet included a high percentage of refined carbohydrates. Our ancestors ate primarily meats, fish, eggs and dairy, as well as some fruits, vegetables and grains in their whole, unrefined state. In nature, sugars and carbohydrates – the so-called “energy providers” – are linked together with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein, fat and fiber – the bodybuilding and digestion-regulating components of the diet. In whole form, carbohydrates support life, but refined carbohydrates are disadvantageous to life because they are devoid of body-building and body-nourishing nutrients. By the way: the common “wisdom” that sugars and carbohydrates are the “energy providers” for the body is a misconception. Fats are far superior energy providers – and have a host of additional health benefits.
Yet, we are told to consume these carbohydrates – especially the processed kind – as much as we want – up to 11 servings a day, or more “as required”. Whatever that may mean.
Calories do count: but a calorie is not a calorie
There is no evidence from epidemiological studies, nor from any tightly controlled, randomized clinical studies, indicating that dietary fat intake promotes the development of obesity independently of total energy intake. A steadily increasing number of researchers now recognizes that one of the most important factors in preventing weight gain involves the total amount and type of calories consumed; and, at the same time, it has been proven that when a significant portion of these calories come from healthy fats, the body experiences satiety and overall caloric intake is reduced in a completely natural and “automatic” way.
Dr. Atkins vindicated again and again
Dr. Atkins, the courageous and valiant pioneer of preventive medicine and healthy nutrition, designated this phenomenon the “built-in” low-carb metabolic advantage. The metabolic advantage in itself is however nothing new. William Banting, in 1862, described the same experience, as did several early anthropologists. This, together with the “fat fact” that fats and proteins follow quite dissimilar metabolic pathways offers low-carbers indeed a significant metabolic advantage. Not to mention, of course, the many other nutritionally beneficial and health-promoting advantages of low-carb nutrition that since have been proven in scientific study after study.
During the early 20th century, most of the fatty acids in the diet of those that could afford it were either saturated or monounsaturated, primarily from butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil and small amounts of olive oil; heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity were all virtually non-existent. Few people know that up to the early 1920’s, almost nobody in the Western world died from a heart attack. A heart attack was so rare and extraordinary that these were prominently published in the medical literature! It fact clogged arteries and heart attacks were so rare that when a young internist named Paul Dudley White introduced the German electrocardiograph to his colleagues at Harvard University, they advised him to concentrate on a more profitable branch of medicine. The new machine revealed the presence of arterial blockages, thus permitting early diagnosis of coronary heart disease. But in those days clogged arteries were a medical rarity, and White had great trouble finding patients for the new instrument he presented, or even basic medical interest in it!
Today, most of the fats in our diet are polyunsaturated, primarily from vegetable oils derived from soy, corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed and rape seed – you know, the “healthy” stuff – and as we all know, heart attacks are completely common, as is obesity, coronary heart disease, cancers, diabetes, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, together with a long, very long, and very sad list of other completely preventable and completely reversible modern ailments and diseases.
Meanwhile, in Europe, up to the 19th-century, fat was relatively expensive and butter was a luxury. The poor lived mainly on potatoes and bread, both of which were cheap, and were supplemented whenever possible with whatever source of protein and fat they could afford. Not surprisingly, mortality was high amongst the poorer classes. To fill the gap in the market cheap substitutes for butter began to be produced in the last quarter of the Victorian era. Made from cheaper fats and colored yellow-ish to mimic the look, if not the taste of butter, these concoctions were called margarines. And all of this started, quite slowly at first, a radical change in the types of fat we, in the western world, ate.
Originally margarines were made of beef suet, milk and water. Later the recipes changed to include lard, whale oil and the oils of olive, coconut, ground nut and cottonseed. By the middle of the 20th-century an even-cheaper emulsion of soy beans and water was substituted for the milk, and cheap margarines could be made entirely of inexpensive oils from vegetable sources. In all these forms, margarine was the poor relation to butter – and was widely regarded as such. However, it was affordable for many and thus consumption increased steadily.
Then, suddenly, in the 1920s a new disease suddenly took off all over the industrialized world. By the 1940s it had become a leading cause of premature death – and nobody had any idea why or how. In 1950 an American scientist, not hampered by the obvious lack of facts, was the first to hypothesize that cholesterol might be to blame. Then in 1953, another American by the name of Ancel Keys compared levels of this disease in seven countries with the amounts of fat in those countries. His research was very, very flawed and has since been proven to be largely based on data selection – but nevertheless, as so often is the case, the media got the smell of it and, hence, the truth does no longer matter and thus so was born the ‘Diet-Heart’ hypothesis, for the new disease was “coronary heart disease”, or CHD.
The birth of the Cholesterol myth – one of the first and most stubborn lies
To reduce the risk of a heart attack, Ancel Keys originally recommended cutting down on the vegetable oils and margarines – which was indeed good advice. However, it was discovered that vegetable oils, which are composed largely of unsaturated fats and oils, tended to lower blood cholesterol levels, while saturated fats seemed to raise them. And by that time, it had been decided, largely by majority vote, that raised cholesterol increased the risk of a heart attack. With the advent of the ‘Prudent Diet’ in the USA in 1982, and COMA’s introduction of “healthy eating” in Britain two years later, the fats in our diet changed even more dramatically: we were told to avoid animal fats such as butter and lard, which have a larger proportion of saturated fats, in favor of largely polyunsaturated vegetable margarines and veget
able cooking oils.
A big cheer rose under the producers of margarines: now they could sell their cheaply-produced products at prices that were close or even higher than real butter! Even “special” margarines were developed specifically to lower cholesterol levels, and prices have since risen again. Benecol, made from tree bark is considerably more expensive than butter. And everybody in Europe seems to know products like Becel, also specifically developed to lower cholesterol numbers. Even in countries were the obesity-diabetes monster has not yet shown its ugly head much, more specifically Asian countries, vegetable-oil spreads that should substitute butter have been introduced. Some airlines proudly offer the junk as standard fare, not realizing what colossal nutritional disservice they are actually providing.
Margarine – a totally unnatural and extremely unhealthy food
The polyunsaturated fats used to make margarine are generally obtained from vegetable sources: sunflower seed, cottonseed, and soybean. As such they might be thought of as natural foods. Usually, however, they are pressed on the public in the form of highly processed margarines, spreads and oils and, as such, they are anything but natural.
Can you pass me the Butylated hydroxyanisol, please?
In 1989, the petroleum-based solvent, benzene, that is known to cause cancer, was found in Perrier mineral water at a mean concentration of fourteen parts per billion. This was enough to cause Perrier to be removed from supermarket shelves.
The first process in the manufacture of margarine is the extraction of the oils from the seeds, and this is usually done using similar petroleum-based solvents. Although these are then boiled off, this stage of the process still leaves about ten parts per million of the solvents in the product. That is 700 times as much as fourteen parts per billion!
The oils then go through more than ten other processes: degumming, bleaching, hydrogenation, neutralization, fractionation, deodorization, emulsification, interesterification…that includes heat treatment at 140-160 Celsius with a solution of caustic soda; the use of nickel, a metal that is known to cause cancer, as a catalyst, with up to fifty parts per million of the nickel left in the product; the addition of antioxidants such as butylated hydroxyanisol (E320). These antioxidants are again usually petroleum based and are widely believed to cause cancer.
The hydrogenation process, that solidifies the oils so that they are spreadable, produces trans-fatty acids that rarely occur in nature and, as we by now all know, are extremely unhealthy. But that is not all. It gets better and better. The heat treatment alone is enough to render these margarines nutritionally inadequate. When the massive chemical treatment and unnatural fats are added, the end product can hardly be called either natural or healthy. You may be interested in a list of the ingredients that may be present in butter and margarine:
Butter: ?milk fat (cream), ?a little salt
Margarine: ?Hydrogenated edible oils, ?Hydrogenated edible fats, ?salt or potassium chloride, ?ascorbyl palmitate, ?butylated hydroxyanisole, ?phospholipids, ?tert-butylhydroquinone, ?mono- and di-glycerides of fat-forming fatty acids, ?disodium guanylate, ?diacetyltartaric and fatty acid esters of glycerol, ?Propyl, octyl or dodecyl gallate (or mixtures thereof), ?tocopherols, ?propylene glycol mono- and di-esters, ?sucrose esters of fatty acids, ?curcumin, ?annatto extracts, ?tartaric acid, ?3,5,trimethylhexanal, ?ß-apo-carotenoic acid methyl or ethyl ester, ?skim milk powder, ?xanthophylls, ?canthaxanthin, ?(synthetic, of course) vitamins A and D.
Yummy, isn’t it? And, according to our beloved government Food Pyramid, this all is very healthy stuff – because it’s made out of so-called healthy fats. Puhleeze!
Dietary fat patterns
The total amount of fats in our diet today is almost the same as it was at the beginning of this century. What has changed significantly, however, is the types of fats eaten. At the turn of the century we ate mainly animal fats that are largely saturated and monounsaturated. Now we are tending to eat more polyunsaturated fats – it’s what we are advised to do. In 1991, two studies, from USA and Canada, found that linoleic acid, the major polyunsaturated fatty acid found in vegetable oils, increased the risk of breast tumors. This, it seems, was responsible for the rise in the cancers noted in previous studies. Experiments with a variety of fats showed that saturated fats did not cause tumors but, when small amounts of polyunsaturated vegetable oil or linoleic acid itself was added, this greatly increased the promotion of breast cancer.
A little biochemistry huff and PUF
Body cell walls are made of cholesterol, protein and fats. The graph below demonstrates that the human body’s fat make-up is largely of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. We contain very little polyunsaturated fat. Cell walls have to allow the various nutrients that body cells need from the blood, but stop harmful pathogens. They must be stable. An intake of large quantities of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUF) changes the constituency of cholesterol and body fat. Cell walls become softer and more unstable.
Polyunsaturated fats suppress the immune system
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFs) are greatly immunosuppressive, and anything that suppresses the immune system is likely to cause cancer. The first person to suggest that polyunsaturated fats cause cancer was Dr R.A. Newsholme of Oxford University, England. What Newsholme wrote was that when our bodies get sufficient nutrition, our diet includes immunosuppressive PUFs which make us prone to infection by bacteria and viruses. When we are starved, however, our body stores of PUFs are depleted. This allows our bodies’ immune systems to recover which, in turn, allows us to fight existing infection and prevent other infections. He was making the point that the immunosuppressive effects of PUFs in sunflower seeds are useful in treating autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and that the same fatty acids could be used to suppress the immune system to prevent rejection of transplanted organs like kidneys.
How cancer-causing are these PUF’s? Or should we blame smoking?
In the USA, during the 1930’s, eighty percent of men smoked cigarettes and the tar content of those cigarettes was much higher than it is today. The death rate at that time from lung cancer was however very low. In 1955 doctors decided that PUFs were good in terms of heart disease protection and consumption of polyunsaturated fats increased dramatically. After this lung cancer deaths skyrocketed. By 1980, although the number of American men who smoked had dropped to only thirty percent, three times as much PUF was being consumed – and there were sixty times as many lung cancer deaths.
Carcinogens – background radiation, ultraviolet radiation from the sun, particles in the air we breathe and the food we eat – continually attack us all. Normally, the immune system deals with any small focus of cancer cells so formed and that is the end of it. But linoleic acid suppresses the immune system. With a high intake of margarine, (and thus polyunsaturates) therefore, a tumor may grow too rapidly for the weakened immune system to cope, thus increasing our risk of a cancer.
So we have known for decades that “healthy” polyunsaturated fats cause and promote cancer…
Since 1974, the increase of polyunsaturated fats has been blamed for the alarming increase in malignant melanoma (skin cancer) in, for example, Australia. We are all told that the sun causes it. Are Australians going out in the sun any more now than they were fifty years ago? They are certainly eating mor
e polyunsaturated oils: in Australia even the cream on milk was removed and replaced with vegetable oil. Victims of the disease have been found to have polyunsaturated oils in their skin cells. Polyunsaturated oils are oxidized readily by ultra-violet radiation from the sun and form harmful so-called “free radicals”. These are known to damage the cell’s DNA and this can lead to the deregulation we call cancer. On the other hand, saturated fats are stable. They do not oxidize and do not form free radicals.
Malignant melanoma is also increasing in Europe and the UK. Does the sun cause this? In Britain the number of sufferers is so small as to be relatively insignificant. Even so, it is not likely that the sun is to blame since all the significant increase is in the over-seventy-five-year-olds. People in this age group tend to get very little sun.
That the sun is not to blame is confirmed by other findings:
Melanoma occurs ten times as often in Orkney and Shetland than it does on Mediterranean islands. It also occurs more frequently on areas that are not exposed to the sun. In Scotland, for example, there are five times as many melanomas on the feet as on the hands; and in Japan, forty per cent of pedal melanomas are on the soles of the feet.
Many laboratories have shown that diets high in polyunsaturated fatty acids promote tumors. Cancer promotion is not the same as cancer causing. The subject is complex; suffice to say here that promoters are substances that help to speed up reproduction of existing cancer cells.
It has been known since the early 1970s that it is linoleic acid that is the major culprit. As Professor Raymond Kearney of Sydney University put it in 1987: “Many laboratories have shown that a greater proportion of polyunsaturated fats are superior to diets rich in saturated fats in promoting the yield of experimental mammary tumors. In such studies, omega-6 linoleic acid appeared to be the crucial fatty acid . . .” and “Vegetable oils (e.g. Corn oil and sunflower oil) which are rich in linoleic acid are potent promoters of tumor growth.”
Polyunsaturated fats and breast cancer
A study of 61,471 women aged forty to seventy-six, conducted in Sweden, looked into the relation of different fats and breast cancer. The results were published in January 1998. This study found an inverse association with monounsaturated fat and a positive association with polyunsaturated fat. In other words, monounsaturated fats protected against breast cancer and polyunsaturated fats increased the risk. Saturated fats were neutral. Butter contains only a mere two percent linoleic acid and lard nine percent. We must eat some linoleic acid to live, but we do not need much. The amount in animal fats is quite sufficient.
Because of the heart disease risk from trans-fats in margarines, in 1994 some manufacturers of many margarine producers changed their formula to cut out the trans-fats. But that still leaves the linoleic acid. And trans-fats are still abundant in fast-foods and many other products – although even the Government now finally has “seen the light” and should enforce the reformulation of such (non)foods. Ironically, it was due to the extreme pressure of highly vocal and radical “health” groups in primary the USA that forced the fast-food companies to change from lard to vegetable oils and shortenings. Now that the abysmal results of their self-fulfilling prophecy has come to light, they are again screaming bloody murder. If these people were as tall as they are mentally retarded, they would be able to drink their coffee (with low-fat non-dairy creamer, of course) from the rain gutters.
Eat your healthy fats – in abundance
Linoleic acid is one of the essential fatty acids that our bodies needs but cannot synthesize. So, indeed, we must eat some to survive. Fortunately there is one form of linoleic acid that is beneficial. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) differs from the normal form of linoleic acid only in the position of two of the bonds that join its atoms. But this small difference has been shown to give it powerful anti-cancer properties. Scientists at the Department of Surgical Oncology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, New York and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, New Jersey Medical School, showed that even at concentrations of less than one percent, CLA in the diet is protective against several cancers including breast cancer, colorectal cancer and malignant melanoma.
Conjugated linoleic acid has one other difference from the usual form – it is not found in vegetables but in the fat of ruminant animals. The best sources are dairy products and the fat on red meat, principally beef. Remember that one of the most stubborn lies that are told about low-carb is that red meat causes cancer? As so often, the exact opposite is true…
“Evil” saturated fats and “evil” animal fats are usually blamed for all kinds of diseases in Western society. Even a quick look at the scientific facts tells us otherwise: In the 19th-century, when animal fats were all that was available, cancers were rare (as was heart disease); Amongst the traditional Inuit, where diets contain more than 80% calories from fat, cancer rates are zero;Polyunsaturated fats and oils are used to suppress the immune system, such immunosuppression is known to cause cancers to start and promote cancer; In this last century there has been a change in favor of polyunsaturated fats and oils – and cancer rates have soared.
Unfortunately, as polyunsaturated fatty acids are also essential to the body; we must have some. So a proper balance must be struck. Whether the dramatic increase in the numbers of cancers in the last century was as a result of a similarly dramatic rise in our intake of polyunsaturated vegetable oils is not known – but the evidence strongly favors such a conclusion.
Stop eating nutritionally-inferior pseudo-foods, and stop feeding them to your kids!
The many health benefits of adequate intake of fats
In case the aforementioned arguments were not clear enough, here is a little recapitulation of the proven and documented health-giving effects of fat, and especially animal fats. Any and all of the following information is readily documented in the scientific literature for anyone who cares to look.
Fat increases nutrient absorption
Researchers have shown time and time again that consuming low-fat meals drastically reduces the absorption of vitally important fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids in food.
Animal fats contain important fat-soluble vitamins
The fatty portions of meat, dairy and eggs are where one finds the highest concentrations of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and beta-carotene.[USDA] Stripping the skin from your chicken breast not only makes it less tasty, but reduces its vitamin A content by seventy-eight percent! Throwing away your egg yolks is also a pretty dumb idea; while egg yolk contains vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, phosphatidylcholine (lecithin), choline, lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids, an egg white contains none of these nutrients.
Saturated fats improve mineral absorption
Numerous animal studies have shown that saturated fat improves mineral absorption, and emerging evidence indicates this holds true for humans as well.
Saturated fats help improve omega-3 status
Saturated fat improves the body’s conversion of plant-source omega-3 fats into the longer-chain varieties like EPA and DHA, while omega-6-rich fats impede the conversion process.
Saturated fats may protect against infection
Saturated fats are well-known for their ability to raise both LDL and HDL cholesterol, both of which help to neutralize harmful bacteria. Furthermore, special types of saturated fa
ts known as medium-chain and short-chain fatty acids, in laboratory research, have been shown to attack a wide array of gram-negative germs. Whole milk consumption in children is associated with fewer gastrointestinal infections than is consumption of low fat milk
Saturated and monounsaturated fats positively influence hormonal function
Low fat diets have been shown to lower levels of free testosterone, essential for well-being in both men and women. Free testosterone elevates sex drive, produces muscle growth, increases bone density, boosts immune function, and may even protect against cardiovascular disease. Higher saturated and monounsaturated fat consumption is positively associated with testosterone levels while higher dietary levels of polyunsaturated fats relative to saturated fats are associated with lower testosterone levels. A number of other studies show that reducing fat intake from around forty percent to 20-25 percent of calories decreases testosterone levels in men.
Saturated fats may protect the liver from foreign substances
In animal experiments, diets enriched with saturated fatty acids (from beef tallow, coconut and palm oils) protect against alcohol-induced liver injury, whereas diets containing polyunsaturated fatty acids promote liver injury. Epidemiological evidence also suggests that both saturated fat and cholesterol protect against alcoholic cirrhosis while polyunsaturated fats promote cirrhosis.
Saturated fats may assist bone growth
In animal studies, diets containing saturated fat produce superior bone development than those containing polyunsaturated fats. Among women followed through the transition from pre- to post-menopause, increased intakes of unsaturated fats were associated with greater bone loss in the hip and lumbar spine.
Saturated fats do NOT raise blood pressure
Saturated fats may protect against blood clotting
Blood clot formation is a key event in the triggering of many heart attacks and strokes. Contrary to the popular but totally unfounded reputation of saturated fats as “artery-cloggers”, UK researchers found that long-term consumption of saturated fat-enriched diets did not increase blood platelet aggregation.[Hunter et al 2000]. Finnish researchers, in contrast, have shown saturated fat-enriched diets to exert anti-clotting actions.
A recent comparison of two margarines, one containing predominantly coconut oil (the most saturated fat source there is), the other containing mostly monunsaturated fats, also indicates the former may have beneficial effects on the body’s anti-clotting capabilities. Anyone with a smidgen of biochemistry knowledge will know that saturated fats are also less prone to free radical damage than their unsaturated counterparts, due to their lack of vulnerable double bonds. This greater stability, in turn, reduces the amount of oxidative stress inside the body.
Fat (and Protein) in Place of Carbohydrate Improves Glycemic Control
Increasing protein and fat intake at the expense of carbohydrate intake (especially refined carbohydrates) also improves glycemic control and reduces the formation of advanced glycation end products.
This all may be why a recent study showed that women with CHD who ate the most saturated fat were less likely to experience progression of coronary atherosclerosis, and to suffer cardiac events during a mean follow-up of 3.1 years. Those with highest carbohydrate and polyunsaturate intakes suffered the opposite fate
No surprise then, that saturated fat restriction has shown itself to be a complete fizzer for lowering cardiac or overall mortality in tightly controlled clinical trials. The only dietary interventions that have successfully lowered cardiac and overall mortality in such trials are increased fruit and vegetable intake and increased omega-3 fatty acid intake.
Don’t you think it’s time to stop kidding people that fat restriction is key to reversing and preventing heart disease? I do. After all, there exists no proof to support such a contention. The evidence for fruit and vegetable-rich diets, omega-3 fatty acids, regular exercise, effective stress reduction techniques, antioxidant supplements (selenium, carnitine and CoQ10) is far stronger, as is the evidence that naturally-occurring fats, such as those found in animal and tropical products and unrefined plant foods (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc) are an important component of a healthy diet.
A Fat Primer
So what fats are good for us and what are they called? Unfortunately the Government in the form of it’s many institutions is largely responsible for much of the confusion, and is certainly to blame for the extremely active promotion of an unbalanced intake of the fat components of our diets. Natural fats such as butter, tallow, lard, and palm and coconut oils have been relegated to the garbage heap, while the engineered junk -the man-made fats- such as the widely-used, partially hydrogenated shortenings and margarines and other excessively polyunsaturated oils have been promoted as if they were the absolute epitome of healthy eating and nothing less than magic medicine.
All of that, of course, has been shown to be total hogwash. So what’s healthy and what is not?
Understanding the Chemistry of Fats
Clearly something is wrong with the theories we read in the popular press and which are used to bolster sales of low-fat concoctions and cholesterol-free foods. The notion that saturated fats per se cause heart disease as well as cancer is not only facile, it is just plain wrong. But it is true that some fats are bad for us. In order to understand which ones, we must know something about the chemistry of fats.
Fats or lipids are a class of organic substances that are not soluble in water. In simple terms, fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms filling the available bonds. Most fat in our bodies and in the food we eat is in the form of triglycerides, that is, three fatty-acid chains attached to a glycerol molecule. Elevated triglycerides in the blood have been positively linked to proneness to heart disease, but these triglycerides do not come directly from dietary fats; they are made in the liver from any excess sugars that have not been used for energy. The source of these excess sugars is any food containing carbohydrates, especially junk like sugars, HFCS, and white flour.
These are fats that humanity has been using safely and effectively for thousands of years and that scientifically have been proven to guarantee good health are in this group:
Beef and lamb tallow
Marine oils (the superfood here: Cod Liver Oil)
Chicken, goose and duck fat
Tropical oils like coconut, palm and sesame oils
Cold pressed (virgin) flax oil
Cold pressed (virgin) olive oil
The reader might notice that nearly all of the above fats are the ones we are told to avoid like the plague. Nothing could be further from the truth! These are all strongly heart health-promoting substances, no matter what the “experts” say. The scientific evidence is clear and undeniable.
Engineered junk fats
These are the engineered, dangerous and extremely unhealthy fats that have been proven to cause several cancers, heart disease, immune system dysfunction, sterility, learning disabilities, impair healthy and normal brain function, induce growth problems and osteoporosis are in this group:
All hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
Trans fatty acids in any form
Soy, corn and safflower oils (you know, the “healthy stuff”)
All fats that are heated to very high temperatures in processing and frying
Yes, these are the polyunsaturates. The “healthy stuff”, huh. And yes, canola oil is on that
list too. Canola oil is included in this list although it’s purported health benefits are widely touted. Originally, this new fangled oil attracted the attention of nutritionists because of its high oleic acid content. But there are quite some serious indications that canola oil presents a few rather large dangers of its own.
For starters, it has a high sulphur content and is not very stable: it goes rancid easily. Baked goods made with canola oil develop mold very quickly. What is however far more worrying is the fact that during the deodorizing process the omega-3 fatty acids of processed canola oil are transformed into trans fatty acids, similar to those in margarine and possibly more dangerous.
A recent study indicates that “heart healthy” canola oil actually creates a deficiency of vitamin E, a vitamin required for a healthy cardiovascular system. Other studies indicate that even low-erucic-acid canola oil causes heart lesions, particularly when the diet is low in saturated fat. It is therefore that this engineered oil is included in our dangerous category.
The importance of a healthy Omega-3/Omega-6 status
Researchers have repeatedly pointed out that we Westerners should be more concerned about maintaining a proper Omega status. They point to research showing that a high omega-6:omega-3 ratio of dietary fatty acids increases thrombotic tendencies, decreases peripheral blood flow and leads to persistent inflammation – all mechanisms involved in the development of atherosclerosis.
Based on animal experiments and epidemiological studies, the researchers recommend a reduction in the intake of linoleic acid (of which polyunsaturated vegetable oils (and the products that contain them) are the richest sources) and a decrease in the ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids.
They note that in Japan, simply decreasing linoleic acid intake would produce the recommended n-6 and n-3 fatty acid balance due to the typical Japanese diet. In most Western countries, however, the researchers point out that both decreasing the intake of LA and increasing that of n-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA (found in fish oil), is necessary for the effective prevention of heart disease, as well as of apoplexy, allergies, and cancers.
The Dangers of Polyunsaturates
For many decades, the public has been force-fed a great deal of absolute nonsense, outright lies and misinformation about the relative virtues of saturated fats versus polyunsaturated oils. Politically correct dietary gurus tell us that the polyunsaturated oils are good for us and that the saturated fats cause cancer and heart disease. The direct result of this colossal propaganda campaign has been that fundamental changes occurred in the Western diet. At the turn of the century, most of the fatty acids in the diet were either saturated or monounsaturated, primarily from butter, lard, tallows, coconut oil and small amounts of olive oil. Today most of the fats in the diet are polyunsaturated from vegetable oils derived mostly from soy, as well as from corn, safflower and canola.
Modern diets can contain as much as 30% of calories as polyunsaturated oils, but scientific research indicates that this amount is far too high. The best evidence indicates that our intake of polyunsaturates should not be much greater than 4% of the caloric total, in approximate proportions of 1 1/2 % omega-3 linolenic acid and 2 1/2 % omega-6 linoleic acid. EFA consumption in this range is found in native populations in temperate and tropical regions whose intake of polyunsaturated oils comes from the small amounts found in legumes, grains, nuts, green vegetables, fish, olive oil and animal fats but not from commercial vegetable oils.
Excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils has been shown to contribute to a large number of disease conditions including increased cancer and heart disease; immune system dysfunction; damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs; digestive disorders; depressed learning ability; impaired growth; and weight gain.
One reason the polyunsaturates cause so many health problems is that they tend to become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture as in cooking and processing. Rancid oils are characterized by free radicals: that is, single atoms or clusters with an unpaired electron in an outer orbit. These compounds are extremely reactive chemically. They have been characterized as “marauders” in the body for they attack cell membranes and red blood cells and cause damage in DNA/RNA strands, thus triggering mutations in tissue, blood vessels and skin. Free radical damage to the skin causes wrinkles and premature aging; free radical damage to the tissues and organs sets the stage for tumors; free radical damage in the blood vessels initiates the buildup of plaque.
Is it any wonder that tests and studies have repeatedly shown a high correlation between cancer and heart disease with the consumption of polyunsaturates? New evidence links exposure to free radicals with premature aging, with autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and with Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s and cataracts.
Too Much Omega-6
Problems associated with an excess of polyunsaturates are exacerbated by the fact that most polyunsaturates in commercial vegetable oils are in the form of double unsaturated omega-6 linoleic acid, with very little of vital triple unsaturated omega-3 linolenic acid. Recent research has revealed that too much omega-6 in the diet creates an imbalance that can interfere with production of important prostaglandins. This disruption can result in increased tendency to form blood clots, inflammation, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, sterility, cell proliferation, cancer and weight gain.
Too Little Omega-3
A number of researchers have argued that along with a surfeit of omega-6 fatty acids the American diet is deficient in the more unsaturated omega-3 linolenic acid. This fatty acid is necessary for cell oxidation, for metabolizing important sulphur-containing amino acids and for maintaining proper balance in prostaglandin production. Deficiencies have been associated with asthma, heart disease and learning deficiencies. Most commercial vegetable oils contain very little omega-3 linolenic acid and large amounts of the omega-6 linoleic acid. In addition, modern agricultural and industrial practices have reduced the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in commercially available vegetables, eggs, fish and meat. For example, organic eggs from hens allowed to feed on insects and green plants can contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the beneficial ratio of approximately one-to-one; but commercial supermarket eggs can contain as much as nineteen times more omega-6 than omega-3!
The Many Benefits of Saturated Fats
The much-maligned saturated fats – the ones Americans so desperately are trying to avoid – are not the cause of our modern diseases at all. In fact, they play many important roles in the body chemistry:
Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of the cell membranes.
They are what gives our cells necessary stiffness and integrity.
They play a vital role in the health of our bones.
For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50% of the dietary fats should be saturated.
They lower Lp(a), a substance in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease.
They protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins, such as Tylenol.
They enhance the immune system.
They are needed for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids.
Elongated omega-3 fatty acids are better retained in the tissues when the diet is rich in saturated fats.
Saturated 18-carbon stearic acid and 16-carbon palmitic acid are the preferred foods for the heart, which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highl
y saturated. The heart draws on this reserve of fat in times of stress.
Short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids have important antimicrobial properties.
They protect us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.
The scientific evidence, honestly evaluated, does not support the assertion that “artery-clogging” saturated fats cause heart disease. Actually, evaluation of the fat in artery clogs reveals that only about 26% is saturated. The rest is unsaturated, of which more than half is polyunsaturated.
What about Cholesterol?
And what about cholesterol? Here, too, the public has been terribly misled, lied to, and misinformed. Our blood vessels can become damaged in a number of ways through irritations caused by free radicals or viruses, or because they are structurally weak and when this happens, the body’s natural healing substance steps in to repair the damage. That very substance is, oh evil of evils, cholesterol. Cholesterol is a high-molecular-weight alcohol that is manufactured in the liver and in most human cells. Like saturated fats, the cholesterol we make and consume plays many vital roles:
Along with saturated fats, cholesterol in the cell membrane gives our cells necessary stiffness and stability. When the diet contains an excess of polyunsaturated fatty acids, these replace saturated fatty acids in the cell membrane, so that the cell walls actually become flabby. When this happens, cholesterol from the blood is “driven” into the tissues to give them structural integrity. This is why serum cholesterol levels may go down temporarily when we replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated oils in the diet.
Cholesterol acts as a precursor to vital corticosteroids, hormones that help us deal with stress and protect the body against heart disease and cancer; and to the sex hormones like androgen, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
Cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D, a very important fat-soluble vitamin needed for healthy bones and nervous system, proper growth, mineral metabolism, muscle tone, insulin production, reproduction and immune system function.
The bile salts are made from cholesterol. Bile is vital for digestion and assimilation of fats in the diet.
Recent research shows that cholesterol acts as an antioxidant
This is the likely explanation for the fact that cholesterol levels go up with age. As an antioxidant, cholesterol protects us against free radical damage that leads to heart disease and cancer.
Cholesterol is needed for proper function of serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is the body’s natural “feel-good” chemical. Low cholesterol levels have been linked to aggressive and violent behavior, depression and suicidal tendencies.
Mother’s milk is especially rich in cholesterol and contains a special enzyme that helps the baby utilize this nutrient. Babies and children need cholesterol-rich foods throughout their growing years to ensure proper development of the brain and nervous system.
Dietary cholesterol plays an important role in maintaining the health of the intestinal wall. This is why low-cholesterol vegetarian diets can lead to leaky gut syndrome and other intestinal disorders. Long-term follow-up studies have shown that those with the lowest cholesterol levels tend to live the shortest lives!
Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease at all but rather a potent antioxidant weapon against free radicals in the blood, and a repair substance that helps heal arterial damage (although the arterial plaques themselves contain very little cholesterol.) There has not been a single tightly-controlled clinical trial that has produced any reduction in CHD mortality that can honestly be attributed to saturated fat restriction.
However, like fats, cholesterol may be damaged by exposure to heat and oxygen. This damaged or oxidized cholesterol seems to promote both injury to the arterial cells as well as a pathological buildup of plaque in the arteries. Damaged cholesterol is found in powdered eggs, in powdered milk (added to reduced-fat milks to give them body) and in meats and fats that have been heated to high temperatures in frying and other high-temperature processes.
High serum cholesterol levels often indicate that the body needs cholesterol to protect itself from high levels of altered, free-radical-containing fats. Just as a large police force is needed in a locality where crime occurs frequently, so cholesterol is needed in a poorly nourished body to protect the individual from a tendency to heart disease and cancer. Blaming coronary heart disease on cholesterol is like blaming the police for murder and theft in a high crime area.
Poor thyroid function (hypothyroidism) will often result in high cholesterol levels. When thyroid function is poor, usually due to a diet high in sugar and low in usable iodine, fat-soluble vitamins and other nutrients, the body floods the blood with cholesterol as an adaptive and protective mechanism, providing a superabundance of materials needed to heal tissues and produce protective steroids. Hypothyroid individuals are particularly susceptible to infections, heart disease and cancer.
Classification of Fatty Acids by Saturation
Fatty acids are classified in the following way:
Saturated: A fatty acid is saturated when all available carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom. They are highly stable, because all the carbon-atom linkages are filled ”or saturated ”with hydrogen. This means that they do not normally go rancid, even when heated for cooking purposes. They are straight in form and hence pack together easily, so that they form a solid or semisolid fat at room temperature. Your body makes saturated fatty acids from carbohydrates and they are found in animal fats and tropical oils.
Monounsaturated: Monounsaturated fatty acids have one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other and, therefore, lack two hydrogen atoms. Your body makes monounsaturated fatty acids from saturated fatty acids and uses them in a number of ways. Monounsaturated fats have a kink or bend at the position of the double bond so that they do not pack together as easily as saturated fats and, therefore, tend to be liquid at room temperature. Like saturated fats, they are relatively stable. They do not go rancid easily and hence can be used in cooking. The monounsaturated fatty acid most commonly found in our food is oleic acid, the main component of olive oil as well as the oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados.
Polyunsaturated: Polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more pairs of double bonds and, therefore, lack four or more hydrogen atoms. The two polyunsaturated fatty acids found most frequently in our foods are double unsaturated linoleic acid, with two double bonds ”also called omega-6; and triple unsaturated linolenic acid, with three double bonds ”also called omega-3. (The omega number indicates the position of the first double bond.) Your body cannot make these fatty acids and hence they are called “essential.” We must obtain our essential fatty acids or EFA’s from the foods we eat. The polyunsaturated fatty acids have kinks or turns at the position of the double bond and hence do not pack together easily. They are liquid, even when refrigerated. The unpaired electrons at the double bonds makes these oils highly reactive. They go rancid easily, particularly omega-3 linolenic acid, and must be treated with care. Polyunsaturated oils should never be heated or used in cooking. In nature, the polyunsaturated fatty acids are usually found in the cis form, which means that both hydrogen atoms at the double bond are on the same side.
All fats and oils, whether of vegetable or animal origin, are some combination of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated linoleic acid and linolenic acid. In general, an
imal fats such as butter, lard and tallow contain about 40-60% saturated fat and are solid at room temperature. Vegetable oils from northern climates contain a preponderance of polyunsaturated fatty acids and are liquid at room temperature. But vegetable oils from the tropics are highly saturated. Coconut oil, for example, is 92% saturated. These fats are liquid in the tropics but hard as butter in northern climes. Vegetable oils are more saturated in hot climates because the increased saturation helps maintain stiffness in plant leaves. Olive oil with its preponderance of oleic acid is the product of a temperate climate. It is liquid at warm temperatures but hardens when refrigerated.
Classification of Fatty Acids by Length
Researchers classify fatty acids not only according to their degree of saturation but also by their length. Short-chain fatty acids have four to six carbon atoms. These fats are always saturated. Four-carbon butyric acid is found mostly in butterfat from cows, and six-carbon capric acid is found mostly in butterfat from goats. These fatty acids have antimicrobial properties – that is, they protect us from viruses, yeasts and pathogenic bacteria in the gut. They do not need to be acted on by the bile salts but are directly absorbed for quick energy. For this reason, they are less likely to cause weight gain than olive oil or commercial vegetable oils. Short-chain fatty acids also contribute to the health of the immune system.
Medium-chain fatty acids have eight to twelve carbon atoms and are found mostly in butterfat and the tropical oils. Like the short-chain fatty acids, these fats have antimicrobial properties; are absorbed directly for quick energy; and contribute to the health of the immune system.
Long-chain fatty acids have from 14 to 18 carbon atoms and can be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Stearic acid is an 18-carbon saturated fatty acid found chiefly in beef and mutton tallows. Oleic acid is an 18-carbon monounsaturated fat which is the chief component of olive oil. Another monounsaturated fatty acid is the 16-carbon palmitoleic acid which has strong antimicrobial properties. It is found almost exclusively in animal fats. The two essential fatty acids are also long chain, each 18 carbons in length. Another important long-chain fatty acid is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which has 18 carbons and three double bonds. It is found in evening primrose, borage and black currant oils. Your body makes GLA out of omega-6 linoleic acid and uses it in the production of substances called prostaglandins, localized tissue hormones that regulate many processes at the cellular level.
Very-long-chain fatty acids have 20 to 24 carbon atoms. They tend to be highly unsaturated, with four, five or six double bonds. Some people can make these fatty acids from EFA’s, but others, particularly those whose ancestors ate a lot of fish, lack enzymes to produce them. These “obligate carnivores” must obtain them from animal foods such as organ meats, egg yolks, butter and fish oils. The most important very-long-chain fatty acids are dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) with 20 carbons and three double bonds; arachidonic acid (AA) with 20 carbons and four double bonds; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) with 20 carbons and five double bonds; and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) with 22 carbons and six double bonds. All of these except DHA are used in the production of prostaglandins, localized tissue hormones that direct many processes in the cells. In addition, AA and DHA play important roles in the function of the nervous system.
Saturated fats, the intake of adequate cholesterol, and sufficient intake of vitamins from fresh (non-starchy) vegetables and (low-glycemic) fruits are very important to longevity and overall health. It is wise and beneficial to consume the healthy fats in abundance. Grains and cereals, if consumed, should be properly treated – preferably the “old-fashioned way”, and eaten sparingly. Saturated tropical oils are essential to good health and highly preventive of many forms of cancer, bacterial and viral infections and have potent anti-inflammatory properties. The regular use of broths, as the basis of soups and sauces, but also as a drink – especially the old-fashioned kind (including the bone marrow and organs) is extremely healthy. The little linoleic acid we need should come from animal sources.
Again, as Professor Yudkin observed: “Fat is the most valuable food known to Man”
But to effectively stop and reverse the current obesity and diabetes epidemic, all of us, consumers and scientists alike, would be well-advised to pay attention to further studies of the anthropological record and remember the words of one of the great low-carbers in history: Winston S. Churchill. This famous, food-loving, smoking, and liberally drinking Statesman and war leader not only lived to very old age, but made a remarkable statement when asked what the next best thing to do for future generations was. In his characteristic enthusiasm he exclaimed: “Study history! Study history!” Although not a nutritionist, the Old Lion could not have been more correct.
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