Nourishing Fats: Why We Need Animal Fats for Health and Happiness
By Sally Fallon Morell
Grand Central Life & Style
We have been hearing about how unhealthy saturated animal fat is for most of our lives. It causes heart disease. It causes cancer. It makes you fat. It does this and it does that. It might even cause global warming. Sally Fallon Morell has gone in search of the evidence behind these claims and found, well, nothing. As with all popular superstitions, there is no evidence, only grandiose claims by authorities based on nothing but their authority.
Popular wisdom would have us believe that saturated fats like butter cause heart disease and heart disease rates have skyrocketed over the last century because we eat too much butter. According to the USDA and the U.S. Census Bureau we ate about 20 pounds of butter per capita a hundred years ago. In recent years that number is less than 6 pounds per capita. If cutting back on butter is the answer, we’ve done that and things have only gotten worse. Sally also gives us a peek at the Baptist Ladies’ Cook Book from 1895 which is loaded with recipes dripping with cream, butter, eggs and lard.
What about the famous Framingham study? According to Dr. William Castelli that study showed that people who ate more fat and cholesterol were more active and they weighed less. There was no correlation with heart disease. Numerous other large studies are cited in this book that come to the same conclusion.
Cholesterol is the other terror of the pop health culture. Again it is a little hard to find a good study to justify this terror. Studies that seem to support the idea that fat and cholesterol will kill you are flawed in key ways. One very common problem is that these studies do not differentiate between natural animal fat and artificial trans fat. Another common deception is to make statistically insignificant variations look large and convincing. One more mistake is the assumption that high levels of fat in the blood imply high fat intake. High carbohydrate intake can lead to synthesis of fatty acids from excess carbohydrates.
It gets worse. Not only do we lack evidence of harm from fat and cholesterol but there are many studies that show we need both of them to stay healthy. One study showed children on low-cholesterol diets had a lower IQ. People with Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome have a genetic disorder that prevents them from making cholesterol. Cholesterol supplements greatly improve their symptoms. Mental illness is epidemic today in the population in general. That is not surprising when you understand that fat and cholesterol are two of the most critical nutrients for the brain. Yet everyone is afraid to eat them. It reminds me of the old Johnny Carson quip about the guy who gave up alcohol, women and rich foods. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself.
This book will not wear you out with technical terms but there are technical explanations and terms for those who like that. You can read about the beneficial constituents of butter, which include cholesterol, lecithin, selenium and glycosphingolipids. Glycosphingolipids illustrate perfectly why science nerds should not be allowed to name anything. I can only imagine what they are naming their kids.
Anyway, moving on before I really get in trouble. Apparently the cognitive dissonance on saturated animal fat is getting uncomfortable enough that we are seeing headlines in publications like the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal admitting that butter may not be so bad after all. If you have been on the lowfat bandwagon and your diet is depressing you, reading this book and trying the recipes in the back will make you happy again. My thumb is UP for that.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2016.