Don’t Give Up the Fat, II

I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.

–Walt Whitman

A few days ago, we looked at why we should not give up on animal fat. Specifically, five reasons. We go now to reasons six and seven.

6. Saturated animal fat is not bad for you. The hysteria around fat is such that it has become almost a gut-reaction from brainwashing: fatBAD! Of course the only things ever put forth to “prove” that fat is bad are epidemiological studies, which are worthless. We’ve talked about this many times before. Such studies can never be used to prove A caused B. They can only be used as a first step upon which to build a hypothesis for actual testing in rigorous, controlled ways. And 80% of the time the hypothesis generated from such studies turns out to be wrong, precisely because epidemiological studies have so many factors impossible to control for.

And that’s not all, folks. For every epidemiological study “proving” fat is bad, I’ll bet you a bowl of my ice cream I can find you one that “proves” fat is good. You hardly ever hear about them, of course, but they are everywhere. There’s this enormous meta-analysis from 2010, of 21 studies and almost 350,000 subjects, that found no link at all between heart disease and saturated fat intake. There’s an even newer one described here. There’s the French Paradox. You know that one. The French eat four times as much butter as Americans, but they don’t seem to be getting enough heart disease.

But there’s also the East African Paradox, the Greek Paradox, the Swiss Paradox, the South Pacific Island Paradox, and the Japanese Paradox. And then there’s the Indian Paradox. In southern Madras they have the highest CHD rates in the country; Punjab in the north has the lowest. You’re seven times less likely to have a heart attack if you live in Punjab, even though you are far more likely to smoke. The biggest difference in their diets? In Madras almost all the fat is “heart-healthy polyunsaturated” oils. In the north, over 90% of their fat comes from dairy.

But of course epidemiological studies stink. So what about some really tough, rigorous, controlled trials? I mean ones where you control the diet and exercise of the participants and compare people of similar age and health. Even better, if you give them meals that look and taste similar, so that neither the subjects nor the researchers are sure who has the high- or low-fat diet.

Well, there’s a problem. I’ll let the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy explain it to you:

There has been no controlled clinical trial of the effect of decreasing dietary intake of saturated fatty acids on the incidence of coronary heart disease nor is it likely that such a trial will be undertaken.

There was this one, where instead of getting people to eat less saturated fat, they replaced the saturated animal fat with good old heart-healthy corn oil for one group, and even more good-er old heart-healthy olive oil for the second group. The third group just kept eating saturated fat. The researchers calculated everything to make sure calories in each group matched up. They followed these subjects–men who had had one heart attack–for two years in a double blind study (meaning both the subjects and researchers were ignorant of who was consuming what), during which time they saw no reduction in cholesterol for the saturated fat guys and very little in the olive oil guys, but a huge drop in cholesterol for the corn oil guys. Yahoo! Corn oil is the winner!

Only…wait.

Two years later, 75% of the guys snorking down saturated animal fat were still alive and had not had a second heart attack. But only 57% of the olive oil guys were either still alive or hadn’t had a second heart attack, while only 52% of the corn oil guys made it–despite their lovely lower cholesterol levels.

And that’s about it. For more info on this appalling lack of evidence for something everyone believes to be true, check out Zoe Harcome’s blog.

7. Saturated animal fat is good for you. Here’s why. Watch out. It’s about to get all sciency up in here.

Fatty acids are strings of carbon atoms with hydrogen filling the in-between bits. When each of the atoms has hydrogen filling between them, they sit in a lovely straight line and are known as saturated fat. Because the atoms are nice and straight, saturated fat is solid and less likely to go rancid. Coconut oil, butter, and lard are all high in saturated fat.

Then you have monounsaturated fats, which are missing a few bits of hydrogen. So they bend and are a bit looser than saturated fats, and are always liquid at room temperature. This would be olive oil, for example. If you stick them in the fridge, though, they get firm because they aren’t missing too many bits of hydrogen. They go rancid a bit easier than saturated fat, so you can’t get them too hot.

Then you have polyunsaturated fat, which is missing bunches of hydrogen and is so bendy that it doesn’t ever fit together well and get solid. That would be vegetable oils, and they go rancid very quickly. They shouldn’t ever be heated. Once rancid, they oxidize.

Polyunsaturates also come in the famous omega-6 and omega-3 forms. You might be thinking, “Ok, so I know omega-6 is Devil Spawn and omega-3 is the Knight in Shining Armor,” and you’d be totally wrong. Your body actually does need some polyunsaturated fat, and it does need omega-6. The problem is that Americans get far too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3. The problem isn’t the existence of the fat, it’s the proportion, which gets out of whack from eating Fats Not Made by Nature.

See, God made natural fats with a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats in nice, healthy proportions. This would be everything from coconut oil to butter to the fat clinging to your steak. When you substitute man-made toxic oils for those, you mess with everything and disaster results. After exhaustive research, the world’s most brilliant scientific minds have discovered that the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fat is somewhere between 3:1 and 1:1: and you, the stupid ingestors of foods the world’s most brilliant scientific minds have recommended, like soybean oil, have a ratio of 16:1. “You fools!” they cry. “You must take fish oil capsules!

Or, of course, you could just eat butter, lard, cheese, coconuts, beef, fish, nuts and other actual foods and stuff, which contain the right ratios when eaten in reasonable proportions. Funny how that works. My favorite line on this subject is from this lady:

As consumers began to realize that fats like butter and lard were not so great for their health, they demanded a better alternative and found it in plant-based oils. Oils like sunflower, safflower and corn oil are extremely high in omega-6 and have very little, if any, omega-3…Someone who eats a typical western diet of fried and processed foods is likely consuming well over the necessary amount of omega-6, which are connected to inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes in high quantities.

The illogic is mind-boggling, isn’t it?

Let’s hurry up, shall we?

You need fat. You need it to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. True vitamin A is only available from animal fat. Vitamin D can come from the sun, sure, but all digestible sources are from animals. Fish. Butter. Egg yolks. All have vitamin D.

You also need fat for your neurotransmitters which can’t send messages without it. Your brain needs cholesterol to function, and it especially needs cholesterol to make happy hormones.  Here’s something to read, and here’s another. Your heart, lungs, and kidneys also depend heavily on saturated fat for fuel. It’s your heart’s preferred fuel source. Your immune system is dependent on it, and your child’s brain simply won’t grow correctly without lots and lots of it.

So please, if you’ve got to eat more carbohydrates to save money, don’t give up the fat. Don’t eat the kind of grains that come in processed foods full of toxic oils. If you have to, eat some more potatoes and less beef: but don’t fail to cook either one in butter.

 

 

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