A Thumbs Down Book Review
Fats that Kill, Fats that Heal
By Udo Erasmus
Review by Sally Fallon
Fats That Kill, Fats That Heal is one of the few books for the lay public on the subject of fats and oils. It has sold well and is quoted everywhere. While there is some good information in the book, the facts about fats are so intertwined with error as to present a tangled skein, likely to do more harm than good.
The author has worked as a salesman for several companies specializing in cold-pressed vegetable oils, which explains his bias towards polyunsaturated oils and against saturated animal fats and tropical oils, bias that is highly tinged with error. For example, Erasmus states that 16-carbon saturated palmitic acid is the major fatty acid in coconut oil, leaving the impression that coconut oil has no particular health benefits; whereas coconut oil contains very little palmitic acid but is especially rich in beneficial lauric acid. His stand on butter is particularly egregious. He declares that butter is a “neutral” fat, useful for frying but not necessary, and dangerous in excess—wrong on every count. Butter is not neutral, but a highly beneficial source of fat soluble vitamins, anti-carcinogenic substances and antimicrobial fatty acids, hence a very necessary component of the American diet. There is nothing dangerous about including large amounts of butter in the diet, and while fine for sauteing, it is not a particularly good fat for frying. Stable tallows or palm oil are better.
Erasmus neglects to tell his readers that dietary saturated fats are very important for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids, especially for the omega-3 fatty acids in flax oil that he has promoted so heavily. He downplays the dangers of excess polyunsaturates, even omega-3 polyunsaturates. The result is that many people, on Udo’s advice, are now taking dangerous amounts of flax oil that the body cannot properly utilize.
Udo also gives the nod to canola oil, which almost always contains dangerous trans fatty acids formed during processing and which causes vitamin E deficiency in test animals.
His most recent gambit is the promotion of hemp oil, which has never been traditionally consumed by humans and which contains cannabinoids, the active ingredients of marijuana. Unsuspecting disciples have flunked their workplace urine drug tests the morning after a salad prepared with hemp oil. Others have suffered gastrointestinal disorders and psychological effects from hemp oil salad dressing.
Fats That Kill Fats That Heal is more sales pitch than professional science—buyer beware!