Full-fat On One Side, Low-fat On the Other Side
For the last several decades (beginning post-WWII, following Dwight D. Eisenhower suffering heart problems, Ancel Keys’ crusading for the avoidance of fat and cholesterol, etc.), the American population has been told, advised, warned, etc., that FAT is a dangerous enemy (at one point, it is said that Americans feared fat more than they feared communism); that Americans (and the entire world should follow our example, because we couldn’t be wrong on any account), should reduce, eliminate, and avoid EVERY opportunity where fat reared its ugly head. LOW-FAT became the new dogma, it was quickly embraced (even after some faulty and ill-planned research studies and agencies did not provide concrete evidence showing fat to be dangerous) by the general medical community and tortuously forced upon the lay people.
I am a huge proponent of critical thinking… and like to stir the critical thinking pot in other people as well. An important question that must be asked: what occurred post-WWII in terms of food, diet, fat, etc.? Without having to dig too deep, one would realize that the consumption of butter decreased, while the consumption of margarine and vegetable-based cooking oils increased. This is in large part due to Ancel Keys’ work, in which he strove to convince people to switch from (natural) fats like butter, egg yolks, milk, cheese, meat, steaks, etc., and use highly-processed vegetable oils instead. Keep in mind that the food pyramid was soon to come on the horizon, too, and its foundation was built upon carbs, carbs, and more carbs. Cardiovascular disease rates started climbing higher and higher each year, and currently, it is ranked the top killer in the United States. Obesity and diabetes has also been on the rise as well. Is it any wonder that the top causes of mortality in the US are closely linked with nutrition? The single most dangerous weapons of mass destruction, at least here in America, are our eating utensils (spoon, fork, and knife). A diet that has largely consisted of carbohydrates (processed and refined, mind you), and void of critical fats, does not seem like it has worked in our favor. Fortunately for protein, it has been sitting somewhat quietly on the sidelines, letting carbohydrates and fats go at each other’s throat.
There have been some wobbling in nutrition recommendations in the recent years. A heated debate on whether fats, saturated fats, butter, coconut oils, etc., have been our foes, or friends, continues picking up momentum. As always, on the nutritional field, there are constantly two sides to the same story. Which side is correct? The side that has more monetary / financial backing? The side that has more scientists, medical doctors, nutritionists, etc.? Keep in mind, the popularity is not always right. In many cases, it isn’t.
To truly understand whether fat is going to put a person 6 feet under at an earlier age, or whether it can extend the human life and confer excellent health benefits, one must look back in history to monumental work conducted by a gentleman named Dr. Weston A. Price. Dr. Weston A. Price (1870-1948), was a Cleveland dentist, who gained the title: “Isaac Newton of Nutrition.” In his search for the causes of dental decay and physical degeneration that he observed in his dental practice among the children that were frequenting his office, he shifted from test tubes and microscopes, to unstudied evidence among human beings. Dr. Price sought the factors responsible for fine teeth among the people who had them- the isolated “primitives.” (At this point, you’re probably thinking, “What does fat have to do with teeth?” You’ll find out in just a few lines). The world became his laboratory. As he traveled, his findings led him to the belief that dental caries and deformed dental arches resulting in crowded, crooked teeth, and unattractive appearance, were merely a sign of physical degeneration, resulting from what he had suspected: nutritional deficiencies.
Price traveled all around the globe in order to study isolated human groups, including sequestered villages in Switzerland, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, Eskimos and Indians of North America, Melanesian and Polynesian South Sea Islanders, African tribes, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori and the Indians of South America. Wherever he went, Dr. Price found that beautiful straight teeth, freedom from decay, stalwart bodies, and resistance to disease and fine characters, were typical of primitives on their traditional diets, rich in essential food factors. When Dr. Price analyzed the foods consumed and prepared by isolated primitive peoples, he found that they provided at least four times the calcium and other minerals. BUT, MOST IMPORTANTLY, he found TEN times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins from animal foods such as butter, fish eggs, shellfish, and organ meats (Oh, you mean, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, affect health, as well as bones, and teeth? Yup!) in their diets.
The importance of good nutrition for mothers during pregnancy has long been recognized, but Dr. Price’s investigation showed that primitives understood and practiced pre-conception nutritional programs for BOTH parents. Many tribes required a period of pre-marital nutrition, and children were spaced to permit the mother to maintain her full health and strength, thus assuring subsequent offspring of physical excellence. Special foods were often given to pregnant and lactating women, as well as to the maturing boys and girls in preparation for future parenthood. Dr. Price found these foods to be very rich in fat-soluble vitamins A and D nutrients found only in animal fats (Wait, you mean, fat is important for health, and pregnancies, and children, and growing healthy bodies? Yup!). Keep in mind, FAT-SOLUBLE vitamins are ONLY found in FAT-CONTAINING sources. Does watermelon have any fat in it? Have you ever heard anyone say that watermelon is a good source of Vitamin A? Think again.
These primitives with their fine bodies, homogeneous reproduction, emotional stability and freedom from degenerative ills stand forth in sharp contrast to those subsisting on the impoverished foods of civilization-sugar: white flour, pasteurized milk, and convenience foods filled with extenders and additives (among a host of other unhealthy and/or untested compounds). This circles back to the depiction of the Food Pyramid that was based on an overload of carbohydrates making up one’s meal. Bread, brown rice, white rice, pasta, cereals, etc., do NOT provide adequate / natural sources of Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Not for this topic, but some carbohydrates ARE quite healthy.
So, to briefly highlight some recent nutritional news, a study was released in which it was discovered that low-fat diets are linked to a higher likelihood of death at an earlier age by almost 25%. The study appears to have studied ~135,000 individuals who had reduced their consumption of fats, when compared to those people who were consuming greater amounts of butter, cheese, and meats. Those who had a lesser consumption of fat were consuming more bread, pasta, rice…but unfortunately missing out on the essential vitamins. The article can be found at the link below:
Not enough convincing information? There’s plenty more which shows some benefit to including more full-fat products in one’s diet. How about yogurt, for reducing the risk of diabetes?
Not enough convincing information? How about the possibility that a low-fat diet may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease? Keep in mind (pun intended) that fat is critical for cells, and cholesterol is a HUGE component of the neuronal “wiring”, i.e., electrical circuits and connections. So if a human being has been on a low-fat, cholesterol-free diet for a large part of their life, they may not have adequate “supplies” for sharp, quick nervous system / brain / spinal cord connections and function.
On the see-saw, the full fat wins (think about it; full-fat equals MORE fat, heavier…while low-fat contains less, is lighter, it will be up in the air). Always remember, “Food without fat is like life without love.”
The Fat Dietitian,
Daniel Andras, M.S., R.D., L.D.