dietary fatTag Archives

Eat fat, lose fat

I’m currently reading Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon. Mary Enig was a key scientist in the fight to get trans fats listed on our nutrition labels. She was actively opposed by the Institute for Shortening and Edible Oils (ISEO). This is an organization that pulls political clout to prevent the funding and publication of research intended to study the harm of vegetable oils and shortening. This organization was incensed about the fact that Mary Enig’s initial paper on the subject had gotten published at all. They have industry watchdogs to prevent such an occurrence, but somehow the paper managed to slip through their scrutiny. Doctors and scientists had been questioning the use of vegetable oils and trans fats since the 1920s when they were beginning to come into popular use. Myocardial infarctions (what we know of as heart attacks) were unheard of prior to the advent of the use of these fats. But their concerns got drowned out by the proponents of the cholesterol theory of heart disease, which would include organizations such at the ISEO and the pharmaceutical industry since they stand to gain from it.

According to Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, lack of healthy fats contributes to several diseases including chronic fatigue, low energy, anxiety, depression and mood swings, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, food cravings, gallbladder ailments, bacterial infections, fungal issues, viral infections, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, gas and bloating, eczema and dry skin, sagging and wrinkled skin, dandruff, and cellulite. They propose a diet that has coconut oil and cod liver oil to correct these issues that they believe to be the result of lack of healthy fats. They also say that dietary cholesterol is important for maintaining the health of the intestinal wall and preventing leaky gut. Their list of sources for healthy fats: coconut oil, butter, cream, nuts, meats, and eggs as well as cod liver oil.

What are the healthy fats, really?

According to Catherine Shanahan MD in Deep Nutrition, eating damaged fats such as trans-fats and mega-trans-fats from damaged polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) encourages the storing of fat in the abdomen (omental fat) and under the chin. So if you’ve got fat there, it’s a sign that you need to change the type of fat you’re eating.

Avoid: hydrogenated fats (Crisco and margarine), vegetable oils, commercial salad dressings and mayonnaise, and anything fried in a restaurant since they likely use the wrong type of fat. NEVER cook with vegetable oil. This damages the PUFA in the oil, which in turn encourages oxidative damage of the cells.

Consume: olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and other animal fats. These fats contain mostly monounsaturated and saturated fats that are safe to cook with and protect cells against oxidative damage.

Healthy dietary fat is not something to be afraid of. Fat is a major component of the membrane of every cell of your body. Fat is needed for the metabolism of fat soluble vitamins. Fat is needed for bone formation. Low-fat diets are associated with osteoporosis. Fat is also needed for healthy nerve function.

I can vouch for this last one since low-fat diets including NutriSystem followed as directed have led to depressive episodes that required medical intervention. These coincided with dangerously low cholesterol levels. Once I figured out that connection with the help of my psychiatrist, I understood that my weight-loss efforts could not be based on low-fat diets. That is why my modified NutriSystem plan is not low-fat.

Dr. Cate Shanahan on diet and brain health

I’ve been listening to the Paleo Summit with Sean Croxton.  Today, I listened to the author of Deep Nutrition, Dr. Cate Shanahan, MD, talking about how important proper dietary fat is to the brain. Brains are primarily made of fat and cholesterol. She says that kids with ADD or ADHD are actually exhibiting signs of poor nutrition that could lead to more serious mental illnesses later such as schizophrenia if the nutrition is not corrected. The crux of Dr. Cate’s talk today was that most pharmaceutical use can be eliminated with proper diet. She recommends Paleo and traditional diets. These tend to be lower carb, higher fat diets.

References:
Shanahan MD, Catherine (2011-04-22). Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food (p. 287). Big Box Books.
Dr. Shanahan’s site: http://drcate.com/

Dietary fats and atherosclerosis

The following is a review of the study, Dietary fats, carbohydrate, and progression of coronary atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It’s one of those studies that can make your blood boil because it would indicate that we’ve been given some really bad information over the years about what to eat to prevent heart disease.  This summary of it got me interested in checking out the details:

“A 2004 study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health showed that in postmenopausal women, the more PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty acids such as from vegetable oil] they ate, and to a much lesser extent the more carbohydrate they ate, the worse their atherosclerosis became over time. The more saturated fat they ate, the less their atherosclerosis progressed; in the highest intake of saturated fat, the atherosclerosis reversed over time.”

They chose for their study postmenopausal women who’d already had a heart attack and who had measurable atherosclerosis in their arteries. This study is important because it shows that the advice we have been given by the USDA and major medical organizations for preventing cardiovascular disease is the opposite of what actually works. The fact that some of these women were able to reverse the progression of their atherosclerosis is significant as well. We don’t often hear of that happening. The participants eating the most saturated fat were also eating more total fat. In general, the ones eating the most saturated fat had the best lipid profiles. Those eating the most saturated fat were eating more protein and less carbohydrate than other groups. Those eating the most carbohydrate had the greatest decline in coronary artery size. To a lesser extent, those eating the least total fat had the greater decline in coronary artery size. Among types of fat, polyunsaturated fat was associated with the greater progression of atherosclerosis. Particularly noteworthy were actual improvements seen when monounsaturated fat displaced saturated fat and when protein displaced polyunsaturated fat. Stearic acid, most often found in animal fats, was associated with lesser progression (better outcome) than other saturated fats. Oddly, smoking was inversely associated with progression of atherosclerosis. I would say that the summary I read the other day held up under closer review.

This was an observational study. There were no interventions done. In the discussion section of the study, they presented a chart of intervention studies. Many of them studied an intervention to increase the ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat. Most of these showed improved outcomes for the intervention group. I have to wonder, though, if intervention groups were eating better in other ways as well. Perhaps they were eating less processed foods, too, which could have a tremendous impact on the results of the study. After all, in this study that I just read, carbohydrate intake was highly correlated to progression of atherosclerosis. Considering that grain desserts and pizza are the largest identified sources of saturated fat in the American diet according to the USDA, this could well be the case. Intervention studies in the chart where they increased consumption of certain whole foods generally showed a strong trend in improved outcomes. Only an examination of the other individual studies could determine if change in consumption of processed foods was properly accounted for and analyzed for confounding. Did these studies have only two groups, a single intervention group and a control group? It would be more interesting to see a single study with multiple intervention types and compare those outcomes since an intervention group is more likely to be conscientious, and conscientiousness is likely a confounding factor when comparisons are made to controls. An observational study such as the one I just read would be less impacted by conscientiousness. As for a multiple intervention study, I wonder if scientists would be brave enough to create an intervention group where saturated fats from grain desserts and pizza were replaced by higher quality sources of saturated fat that did not come with a boatload of refined carbohydrates, thus retaining the level of consumption of saturated fat but eliminating the junk. Comparing that intervention group to an intervention group increasing the ratio of polyunsaturated fat might yield different results entirely. It remains to be seen. Interestingly, studies where the ratio of monounsaturated fats was increased were not listed. Have they not been done?

Critiques of the science behind plant-based diets

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about dietary studies. A blog of particular interest is Raw Food SOS by Denise Minger. One of her posts tore apart Ancel Keys’ 22 country data. That data is often cited as proof that dietary fat causes heart disease. By the time Denise Minger got done with it, the data from the 22 countries more likely proved only that richer countries that could afford better medical care were better able to determine cause of death. In other words, the Keys study and data were rendered meaningless.

And another post dissects the movie Forks over Knives and critiques the science in that movie. So far, it isn’t looking good for the movie. Forks over Knives promotes a plant-based or vegan diet. I tried a vegan diet for about three months not so long ago. I ran into problems with it. I began developing a physical form of depression. Fortunately, my mood was still generally good. I had my blood checked, and my cholesterol had dropped too low. The total was 147. My psychiatrist was concerned. He wants to see the total be at least 160. Low cholesterol is associated with depression and other mental disorders. So I stopped being vegan and eventually recovered. As you can tell, I am not a fan of veganism. For me, at least, veganism is a dangerous diet. Generally, though, depression is more common among vegans, so it isn’t just me. One of my lowest total cholesterol readings, 125, coincided with my first round of NutriSystem back in 1990 or so. It also coincided with my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. And that, folks, is why I have adjusted my diet. I’m trying to keep my cholesterol levels from falling. I’ll have blood drawn to test cholesterol on Thursday to see if my strategy is working. I’m optimistic. My mood has been good so far this round.

References:
Denise Minger. The Truth About Ancel Keys: We’ve All Got It Wrong, Raw Food SOS.
Denise Minger. “Forks Over Knives”: Is the Science Legit? (A Review and Critique), Raw Food SOS.
Chris Masterjohn. My Experience With Vegetarianism, cholesterol-and-health.com.
Shin JY, Suls J, Martin R. Are cholesterol and depression inversely related? A meta-analysis of the association between two cardiac risk factors. Ann Behav Med. 2008 Aug;36(1):33-43. Epub 2008 Sep 12.
Michael Pekker. Could Eating A Vegan Diet Cause Depression? Clinical Depression: Symptoms and Treatment.

Choosing dietary fats

Dietary fats are not all the same.  Some can be harmful while others are quite healthy. Some contribute to inflammation, some ease it.  Omega-3 in particular is noted for its anti-inflammatory properties.  I definitely would NOT recommend vegetable oil such as from soy or corn.  It contains too much omega-6 fat, which causes inflammation.  That type of fat will also suppress your immune system and contribute to cancer.  I don’t tend to eat much of those at all, unless I’m eating in a restaurant that prepares the food with vegetable oils.  I don’t use them at home.  Animal fat from pasture-raised meat and dairy, olive oil, and coconut oil don’t contain much omega-6, so they should all be fine.  In fact, these kinds of oils can help the immune system and protect against cancer.  The type of fats you choose will make a difference in weight as well.  Pig farmers tried using coconut oil to fatten their pigs.  It didn’t work.  The pigs stayed lean.  Then they switched to vegetable oil, and the pigs got fat.

Critique of studies on which our “healthy diet” advice is based

I just read Dr. Mercola’s critique of the principal studies on which our “healthy diet” advice is based, The Cholesterol Myths that May be Harming Your Health.  It would seem that there’s a lot of misleading information being promulgated.

To start with, Dr. Ancel Keys cherry-picked his cases for the Seven Countries Study back in 1953 when he told us that higher fat intake correlated to higher rates of coronary heart disease.  Had he used data from all 22 countries that had data available, no correlation between dietary fats and coronary heart disease would have been found.

Analysis of the Framingham Study showed that lower blood cholesterol levels were associated with a lower cardiac risk.  What they did not tell us was that the same study determined that the more cholesterol and saturated fat people ate, the lower their blood cholesterol levels.  And yet we were told to lower our cholesterol and saturated fat intakes.

And finally, while the “MrFit” Study did show a marginal decrease in coronary heart disease for those who ate a low-saturated fat and low-cholesterol diet, there was an increased all-cause mortality rate for those who followed such a diet with an increase in deaths from cancer, brain hemorrhage, suicide, and violent death.

Does the American Heart Association know about these studies?

I continue to read Natural Health & Weight Loss by Barry Groves.  I am currently reading about fats.

A study was done in 1965 by Rose GA et al to assess survival rates in patients eating different fats and oils.  In this study, patients who had already had a heart attack were assigned to one of three groups.  These were given polyunsaturated corn oil, mono-unsaturated olive oil or saturated animal fats respectively.  Blood cholesterol levels were lowered by an average of 30% in the polyunsaturated group, while there was no change in the other two groups.  At first sight, therefore, it seemed that men in the polyunsaturated group had the best chance of survival.  However, at the end of the trial only 52% of the polyunsaturated group were still alive and free of a second heart attack.  Those in the mono-unsaturated group fared little better: 57% survived and had no further attack.  But the saturated animal fats group fared the best with 75% surviving and without a further attack.

There was also a Finnish trial published in 1985 by Miettinen TA et al in which middle aged men were given interventions such as instruction on diet, smoking, and exercise and were also treated for high blood pressure and cholesterol when present.  The control group was given no such interventions.  At the 15-year follow-up, there were 67 total deaths and 34 heart disease deaths in the intervention group.  In the control group, there were 46 total deaths and 14 heart disease deaths.

Would it be fair to say that we are being given bad advice where it relates to heart health?

References:
Barry Groves. Natural Health & Weight Loss, 2007.
Rose GA, Thomson WB, Williams RT. Corn oil in treatment of ischaemic heart disease. Br Med J. 1965 Jun 12;1(5449):1531-3.
Miettinen TA et al. Multifactorial Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases in Middle-aged Men, JAMA. 1985;254(15):2097-2102.