Sports Nutritionist Eoin Lacey and Jeff Willoughby
Fats, often seen as the bad guy in nutrition of the modern society, being blamed for the obesity epidemic that is sweeping our planet, should we really be looking for low fat foods to save our health? Unfortunately we have named "Fat" that is adipose tissue that sits under our skin as the same thing as "Fats" in the food that we eat. This drives us to eat low fat foods in-‐order to avoid putting on bodyfat, suffering from high cholesterol and of course suffering heart disease. However this is a misconception between stored excess glucose that was never used in the muscle cell as energy (i.e. bodyfat) and fat that we obtain from food that offers us health and vitality -‐ they are far from the same thing!!
There are 3 types of fats, Saturated fats, Unsaturated fats (which contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (Omega-‐3, 6 & 9)), and trans fats.
Saturated fats come from animal sources, and have been in amongst the controversy with research linking saturated fats to cholesterol and heart disease. (Note that research pre 1950 did not separate trans fats and saturated fats, they were all clumped to together in the same results). This controversy has seen has us avoid eggs due to the saturated fat levels in the yolk. Could such a natural product that has been around for so many thousands of years be contributing towards heart disease?
There was a study done in 1984 by the Lipid Research Clinic (LRC). This study was looking at cholesterol lowering drugs and the incidence of heart attacks. This study did show a link from cholesterol lowering drugs on the incidence of heart attacks. Unfortunately the assumption was made by the researchers that because the drugs worked, it justified promoting a diet low in cholesterol, then that would have the same effect as a cholesterol lowering drug
"So, on a basis of a study looking at drugs lowering cholesterol among men with high cholesterol levels, we ended up with a message to eat less saturated fat. Have I missed something here?"
Big Fat Lies, Sutter, 2010.
Since this study their has been 26 studies trying to show a link between saturated fats and heart disease, only 4 showed any association and these were epidemiological in nature.
"To date there have only been two relevant double-blind studies and neither showed a connection between saturated fats and heart disease".
Big Fat Lies, Sutter, 2010.
So eggs don't do not cause heart disease (this has been shown in an independent research study done by the egg association in the United States), nor does any saturated fat. Just poor assumptions made on questionable research.
In 1953 Ancel Keys published a pivotal paper in his legacy to prove a correlation between dietary fat and heart disease. Keys chose 6 studies to collect his data from (this became known © Eoin Lacey 2011 as the 6 nations study) and the below graph clearly shows this link between those countries that consume high fat diets and have highs rates of heart disease.....or do they?
The problem is that before looking at the data, Ancel Keys already had an opinion on the data and had his reputation was riding on the outcome. Ancel Keys had over 20 countries to choose his data from but only chose 6. This is simply because these six helped to prove his already established believe. If you actually look at all the data (below) you would be hard pressed to make the same correlation.
Gary Taubes in his book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" summed it up by saying
"if we believe we know the cause before we observe the effect, we will almost assuredly see what we want to see, which is not the same as seeing things clearly"
The second graph shows all the data that was available (This was never shown by Ancel Keys for obvious reasons), but Yerushalmy and Hilleboe in 1957 produced this to show what Ancel Keys was saying was simply not true. Their rebuttal did not get the same attention unfortunately as the well respected Keys.
However the study was enough to get Keys on the cover of Time Magafine. The simple fact is the links between eating saturated fats and its correlation to heart disease are not true.
"There is virtually no history of heart disease among the Inuit tribes who live off saturated fats with little or no fresh vegetables, and this example does not stand alone. Many hunter-gatherer tribes have diets rich in saturated fats and yet have no history of heart disease".
Big Fat Lies, Sutter, 2010.
"If, as we have been told, heart disease results from the consumption of saturated fats, one would expect to Dind a corresponding increase in animal fat in the American diet. Actually, the reverse is true. During the sixty-year period from 1910 to 1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%, and butter consumption plummeted from eighteen pounds per person per year to four. During the past eighty years, dietary cholesterol intake has increased only 1%. During the same period the percentage of dietary vegetable oils in the form of margarine, shortening and reDined oils increased about 400% while the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased about 60%".
The Truth About Saturated Fats -‐ Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon
The benefits of saturated fats
Saturated fats play many crucial roles in the body, and may not be the things that we should be looking to avoid
Saturated fat is a key component of a group of substances called phospholipids, which are critical to building cell walls. Saturated fat plays a crucial role in the integrity of our cells.
Big Fat Lies, Sutter, 2010.
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 utilifation 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 highly 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 fatty acids that are essential are omega 3 and omega 6. One of the main benefits of these omega 3, are to reduce inflammation (EPA). Many of the main diseases cause inflammation in the body and also having too much insulin will cause inflammation, therefore this places a great importance on these omega 3 and 6. The brain is 60% fat with over 90 percent in mammalian grey matter. These essential fats are obtained by animal fat, freshwater and shellfish and deficiencies of these during infancy can result in irreversible failure of certain components of brain growth. They also play a crucial role in reducing blood clotting, arrhyhmias, blood pressure. Both omega -‐3s and 6s have been shown to be inversely related to risk of CHD.
Too Much Omega-6
Problems associated with an excess of these kind of fats are exacerbated by the fact that most fats in commercial vegetable oils are in the form of double unsaturated omega-‐6, with very little of unsaturated omega-‐3. 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.
A list of oils and there Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratios are below
|Type of oil||Omega-3||Omega-6||Monounsaturated fat||Saturated fat|
|Olive oil (extra
|Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture|
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. This fatty acid is necessary for cell oxidation, for metabolifing important 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 and large amounts of the omega-‐6. 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 optimal ratio of omega -‐6 to omega -‐3 is 3 :1 (this is what a traditional Palaeolithic diet would have given us). The modern diet sees a high ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 of 10:1 due to our increased consumption of oils and other vegetable fats and margarine (which has increased 410% since 1909). The high consumption of omega 6 to omega 3 has been linked to psychiatric disorders including depression as well as poor neuronal development in infants. So getting the right ratio of fats is important.
So both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are incredibly important to you, just in the right quantities. Supplementation with Omega 3 is one of the quickest and easiest ways to keep your omega 3 intake high.
Transfats are man made fats of which are made to be solid at room temperature. From all research I have ever read, there does not seem to be any confusion about the true ugly nature of these fats and what they do to you.
The process of creating transfats is called "Hydrogenation". This is the process that turns polyunsaturates, normally liquid at room temperature, into fats that are solid at room temperature, margarine is a good example. To produce them, manufacturers begin with the cheapest oils—soy, corn, cottonseed or canola, already rancid from the extraction process— and mix them with tiny metal particles—usually nickel oxide. The oil with its nickel catalyst is then subjected to hydrogen gas in a high-‐pressure, high-‐temperature reactor. Next, soap-‐like emulsifiers and starch are squeefed into the mixture to give it a better consistency; the oil is yet again subjected to high temperatures when it is steam-‐cleaned. This removes its unpleasant odor. Margarine's natural color, an unappetifing grey, is removed by bleach. Dyes and strong flavors must then be added to make it resemble butter. Finally, the mixture is compressed and packaged in blocks or tubs and sold as a health food. Partially hydrogenated margarines are even worse for you than the highly refined vegetable oils from which they are made because of chemical changes that occur during the hydrogenation process. Most of these man-‐made trans fats are toxic to the body, but unfortunately your digestive system does not recognife them as such. Instead of being eliminated, trans fats are incorporated into cell membranes as if they were good fats—your cells actually become partially hydrogenated! Once in place, trans fatty acids wreak havoc in cell metabolism because chemical reactions can only take place when electrons in the cell membranes are in certain arrangements or patterns, which the hydrogenation process has disturbed. In the 1940's, researchers found a strong correlation between cancer and the consumption of fat—the fats used were hydrogenated fats although the results were presented as though the culprit were saturated fats. In fact, until recently saturated fats were usually lumped together with trans fats in the various U.S. data bases that researchers use to correlate dietary trends with disease conditions. Thus, natural saturated fats were tarred with the black brush of unnatural hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Altered partially hydrogenated fats made from vegetable oils actually block utilifation of essential fatty acids, causing many side effects including sexual dysfunction, increased blood cholesterol and paralysis of the immune system. Consumption of hydrogenated fats is associated with a host of other serious diseases, not only cancer but also atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction, low-‐birth-‐weight babies, birth defects, decreased visual acuity, sterility, difficulty in lactation and problems with bones and tendons. Yet hydrogenated fats continue to be promoted as health foods. The popularity of partially hydrogenated margarine over butter represents a triumph of advertising duplicity over common sense. Your best defense is to avoid it like the plague.
When looking at a label look for hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oil on ingredient labels and avoid those foods © Eoin Lacey 2011