|More Saturated Fat Attacks|
|Written by Mary Enig, PhD|
|Tuesday, 23 June 2009 23:12|
Butter consumption has been rising over the last few yearsâ€”not by leaps and bounds, but steadily upwardâ€”both in the U.S. and in Europe. This shift in consumption patterns may explain a resurgence of anti-saturated fat messages in the U.S. and overseas.
Britain launched a â€śhealthâ€ť campaign in February of 2009 to â€śraise awareness of the health risks of eating too much saturated fat,â€ť and lamenting the fact that â€śthe UK is currently eating 20% more saturated fat than UK Government recommendations.â€ť
The highly coordinated campaign includes a 40-second TV advertisement in which a "jug of saturated fat is poured down the sink, overloading and blocking a kitchen pipe to vividly bring to life the message that too much saturated fat is bad for your heart.â€ť Print ads encourage Britons to cut the fat off their meat, switch to lower-fat dairy products and use vegetable oils instead of butter when cooking.
In New Zealand, newspaper articles have urged the population to eat less bacon and sausage, avoid butter and pastries containing butter, and take children off of full-fat milk after the age of two â€śto avoid clogging their arteries.â€ť
In the U.S.
As Americans are increasingly turning again to real food, newspaper articles have appeared praising the virtues of real butter, fatty meats and lard. A breakthrough was an article entitled â€śDieting? Donâ€™t fear the fat,â€ť by Allison Boomer, published in the Boston Globe (January 7, 2009). Noting that fats provide satiety she writes, â€śYou might feel quite satisfied, for instance, if you crumble two slices of crisp bacon and one ounce of cheese on your salad or eat that delectable golden skin on your broiled chicken. No one is advising you to eat mountains of fries or other foods made with commercially processed fats. The suggestion is a judicious amount (about 1 tablespoon per meal) of naturally occurring fats. Think of butter, cheese, chicken or duck fat, even well-marbled steaks, as a taste-enhancing complement to a meal.â€ť Five years ago, no major newspaper would have published anything along the lines of this common-sense advice. Boomerâ€™s article is a sign that the walls of the lowfat dungeon are crumbling.
Thus, in the U.S., the anti-saturated fat campaign has become more subtle, consisting not of blatant propaganda - the kind of finger wagging food Puritanism that is increasingly turning us off- but of spin-doctored reports on scientific studies.
Saturated Fat and the Liver
One example is a study entitled â€śSaturated Fatty Acids Promote Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and Liver Injury in Rats with Hepatic Steatosis,â€ť published in Endocrinology (2006 147;(2):943-951).
In this study, markers for liver function worsened in rats on a diet high in sucrose (68 percent sucrose, 12 percent corn oil and 20 percent casein) or high in lard (45 percent lard oil, 35 percent corn starch and 20 percent casein) compared to a high starch diet (68 percent corn starch, 12 percent corn oil and 20 percent casein) or a high polyunsaturated diet (35 percent corn starch, 45 percent corn oil and 20 percent casein). The lard oil diet was described as high in saturated fat, hence the title of the study, which fingers saturated fatty acids. The title contains no mention of the similar adverse effects from the high sucrose diet; but even worse is the characterization of lard oil as high in saturated fat. The definition of lard oil is "oil consisting chiefly of olein that is expressed from lard.â€ť Olein is a glyderide of oleic acid; that is, oleic acid joined to a glycerol molecule. Thus the diet described as high in saturated fatty acids was actually high in monounsaturated fatty acids! (None of the diets could be called normal diets.)
It would be surprising if saturated fats caused liver problems in experiments like these because for sixty years, research has shown that saturated fats protect the liver. A recent study, published in the Journal of Nutrition (145:904-912, April, 2004) found that saturated fat from beef tallow reduced alcoholic liver toxicity in rats whereas corn oil increased markers of liver toxicity. Moral: If you drink, eat plenty of butter and fatty meats.
Saturated Fats in Pregnancy Diet
More spin doctoring comes with a November, 2008 study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (doi:10.1172/JCI32661) which compared the results of two diets fed to pregnant monkeys. One group got a â€śhealthyâ€ť diet of fruits, vegetables and 15 percent fat. The other group got a high-calorie junk food diet with 35 percent of calories as fat, and which, according to a news report, included potato chips, peanut butter and chocolate. (A description of the diet does not appear in the scientific report.) In the latter group, fatty liver disease developed in the fetuses that were sacrificed for testing, and the offspring allowed to be born became obese.
The obvious conclusion of this study is that a junk diet, high in sugar and processed vegetable oils, during pregnancy will adversely affect the offspring. But according to a public statement by Professor Jacob Friedman, one of co-authors, the study â€śimplicates the saturated fat in the diet as the culprit.â€ť Yet there was twice the level of unsaturated fat as saturated fat in the junk food diet. The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, which is firmly wedded to the hypothesis that saturated fats are the cause of chronic disease. Obviously, Dr. Friedman has funding for future studies in mind.
Blood Vessel Inflammation
Another saturated fat attack comes from a February, 2009 study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research entitled "Proinflammatory Phenotype of Pervascular Adipocytes: Influence of High-Fat Feeding.â€ť The researchers found more markers of vascular inflammation in mice placed on a "high- fat Western diet.â€ť But nowhere in the article or the accompanying press release do the authors disclose the type of fat fed to the mice.
After an email query, Neil Weintraub, the principal study author, provided us with the feeding formula they usedâ€”the fat used was indeed an animal fat, what the industry calls anhydrous milk fat; that is, butterfat with most of the moisture removed. The other main components of the formula were casein (20 percent by weight), sucrose (34 percent by weight) and corn starch (15 percent by weight) - all problematic ingredients that could have contributed to inflammation. As there was no control group fed the same formula but with polyunsaturated oil instead of anhydrous milk fat, the researchers could make no comparison of the effects of mostly saturated versus mostly polyunsaturated fatty acids.
And anhydrous milk fat may not have the same fatty acid profile as butter. The industry has figured out how to add polyunsaturated fatty acids to milk fat through enzymatic interesterification. Weintraub believes that his results prove that â€śhigh-fat dietsâ€ť can predispose individuals to heart disease even if they do not have high cholesterol levels. â€ś. . . many patients who consume high fat diets do not exhibit abnormal lipid profiles but still develop atherosclerosis nonetheless. These new findings suggest a direct link between poor dietary habits and inflammation of blood vessels. . .â€ť
The study was again funded by the National Institutes of Health, which preaches that â€śpoor dietary habitsâ€ť mean consumption of foods like meat, butter and cheese, high in saturated fat.
Why would the industry be concerned about a small group of people returning to butter, lard and other real foods? Because even small changes in consumption patterns can wreak havoc in an industry geared to foods based on vegetable oils. And the industry knows that small trends soon become big trends.
And the industry is watching carefully. A February, 2009 article published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (109(2):288- 96) entitled â€śAmericansâ€™ awareness, knowledge, and behaviors regarding fats: 2006-2007,â€ť looked at consumer awareness and understanding of trans and other fats. The researchers found that during the study period awareness of trans fats had increased to the same level as awareness of saturated fat (92 and 93 percent respectively). But knowledge of food sources of trans fats remained low. Only 21 percent could name three food sources of trans fats in 2007, compared to 30 percent who could name three food sources of saturated fat.
Of course the industry would like for consumers to remain ignorant about which foods contain trans fats. Saturated fats are likely to be highly visible as butter, cream or fat on meat, whereas trans fats are hidden in the batter, dough and crust of chicken nuggets, cookies, crackers, chips and other junk foods. The current campaign to warn the public about trans fats always mentions saturated fats as a threat in the same breath, and since consumers recognize saturated fat much more easily than trans fat, the warnings about unhealthy trans fats often result in avoidance of healthy saturated fats.
Likewise, articles implicating â€śhigh-fat diets,â€ť such as the one appearing in Circulation Research, also have the effect of scaring people away from visible butter and meat fats while encouraging the continued consumption of invisible fats and oils in processed and fried foods. And many people will assume that liquid oils are fine - after all, they are not usually referred to as fats. Since people know what saturated fats do to the pipes under the kitchen sink, they are likely to fall for the simplistic argument that saturated fats do the same thing in the human bodyâ€”never mind the fact that your body is at least twenty-five degrees warmer than those fat-clogged pipes.
The vegetable oil industry and its cohorts in the scientific community choose their words and images carefully!
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2009.
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