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Interesting Information: A Healthy Diet Includes 50-70% Healthy Fats

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Interesting Information:  July 3, 2012

A Healthy Diet Includes 50-70% Healthy Fats

How’s that for a shocker?

It’s especially shocking when the idea that plant-based diets are your healthiest choice is being pushed so strongly by the USDA and way too many health practitioners who have hopped onto this bandwagon without adequate scientific data for support.  The health of plant-based diets is another one of these food myths that I’ve been writing about for the past few years.  I can’t find any science that supports it that has stood up to peer reviews.  I can find TONS of science that refutes it.  Plants are NOT nutrient dense.  Period.

Dr. Joseph Mercola’s health web site published “Why I Believe Over Half of Your Diet Should Be Made Up of This,” on May 31, 2012 (http://articles.mercola.com).

The “this” was healthy fats, and Mercola noted that his own diet included 60 to 70% of healthy fats daily.

Mercola’s article begins with a history of Crisco, the industrial, white, vegetable-based lard made by Procter & Gamble and introduced a “little over 100 years ago.”  “Atlantic Magazine” published a history of the introduction of Crisco in their April 26, 2012, issue–using an excerpt from the book THE HAPPINESS DIET by Drew Ramsey, MD, and Tyler Graham.  (Mercola’s article contains a link to this Atlantic article.)  Up until Crisco, people used animal fats for frying and in baked goods like pie crusts.  But, the introduction of Crisco included a wildly successful ad campaign claiming that Crisco was “modern” and was healthier than the use of animal fats.

Crisco is an hydrogenated vegetable oil.  Actually its made from the “waste product of cotton farming,  cottonseed oil.”  It’s what we call a “trans fat.”  It causes heart disease for sure and “contributes to cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance and skin disease; infertility, difficulties in pregnancy and problems with lactation; low birth weight, growth problems, and learning disabilities.”

Mercola walks readers through the myth of saturated fat being harmful–and gives a history of the misinformation that is still very much present today–misinformation that has no science whatsoever behind it.  (Many of the Mainely Tipping Points essays on this blog discuss this history and what clinical trials and science are actually showing.)  Mercola retells how Ancel Keys ignored countries which contradicted his premise that saturated fat caused heart disease.  Mercola also cites the often-cited statement of Dr. William Castelli, former director of the famed Framingham Heart Study, wherein Castelli notes that “the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol….We found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active.”  Mercola also includes a video of his  interview with Gary Taubes, whose work I’ve written extensively about also in the essays on this blog.

Saturated fats “provide a concentrated source of energy in your diet.”  I’ve read elsewhere–and I’ll need to find this discussion again–that when your body is burning energy from carbs and sugars, it puts a lot of pressure on the body, causing it to malfunction, causing energy swings, and constant hunger.  Saturated fats don’t have this effect–they provide sustained, steady energy for long periods of time.  And, Mercola discusses why trans fats and sugars, particularly fructose, are the “true culprits of heart disease.”  The Weston A. Price Foundation would add that overuse of highly processed vegetable oils (canola, safflower, etc.) are also a root cause of heart disease.

Saturated fats , notes Mercola, are also carriers for many of the minerals and vitamins that are crucial for the body’s health.  Saturated fats are needed for the body’s conversion of nutrients to useable forms in the body–like the conversion of carotene to vitamin A.  Saturated fats are building blocks for cell membranes, help lower cholesterol levels, act as antiviral agents, modulate genetic regulation, and help prevent cancer.

So, writes Mercola, don’t eat processed foods.  Elsewhere, Mercola has advocated not eating grains.

And, writes Mercola, do eat organic butter (hopefully made from raw milk), use unprocessed coconut oil for cooking, and eat raw fats, such as “those from avocados, raw dairy products, and olive oil, and take a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fat, such as krill oil.”  (The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends unprocessed, fermented, high-vitamin cod liver oil instead of fish oils and would add beef fat (tallow), pork fat (lard), and chicken fat–all from healthy animals NOT raised in CAFO environments–to the list of saturated fats to use and consume.)

Mercola notes that Paul Jaminet, PhD, author of PERFECT HEALTH DIET, and Dr. Ron Rosedale, MD, “an expert on treating diabetes through diet” both agree that “the ideal diet includes somewhere between 50-70 percent fat.”

Mainely Tipping Points 29: A Cultural Studies Answer

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Tipping Points 29

A CULTURAL STUDIES ANSWER

In WHY WE GET FAT (2011), Gary Taubes asks a scientific question.  His answer deploys scientific data from respected scientists working with the relationship of food to human body chemistry.  To recap, overweight people develop a hormonal disorder which is caused by eating carbohydrates, especially the easily digestible, highly processed carbohydrates (white flour, sugars, grains, starchy and/or sweet vegetables, and fructose from fruits bred to be big and sweet).  This disorder causes human bodies either to trap and store food energy in fat cells, no matter the energy needs of the body, or to funnel food energy to the muscles, which makes for a lean body with lots of energy that must be exercised away.

Taubes addresses some of why the inaccurate calorie in/calorie out, or “energy,” paradigm has persisted despite a decided lack of supporting science and the existence of a growing body of contrary evidence stretching back at least sixty years.  My own discipline, Cultural Studies, would begin where Taubes often leaves off by asking who is benefitting and what structural and cultural forces are being deployed for support.   

Cultural belief systems are probably the most powerful organizing forces man has ever devised.  Taubes describes a particularly insidious cultural belief that supports the energy paradigm.  By arbitrarily deciding that obesity is not a dysfunction of the body, a path opens which allows the belief that obesity is caused by the brain —which has been culturally interpreted to be about behavior, about character, about gluttony and sloth (80-86).    

Taubes’ identifies Louis Newburgh, a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, as one originator of the “head case,” or psychological, explanation for obesity.    In the 1920s, Newburgh became a nationally recognized expert on obesity, and he posited that either obese people were taught to overeat by their parents or they had a “`combination of weak will and a pleasure seeking outlook upon life’” (83). 

“Newburgh,” Taubes notes, “was preaching to a medical establishment that had been taught to revere authority figures, not question their pronouncements” (83).  Newburgh, I’d say, lived in a time when most fat people were poor people.  He was a patriarch who was preaching something that most people of his own class understood to be true:  there’s something wrong with people who are poor, and the fat ones, well, they have “perverted appetites” (82).   

Wrapped up in this psychological explanation are the intersections of class, race, and gender.  Taubes points out that the poorer one is, the fatter one is likely to be since the calories available to the poor derive from cheap carbohydrates (18).  Taubes lists many worldwide studies of poor fat populations who are, with one exception, people of color.  (The exception is Naples, Italy, right after World War II ended, when Naples was destitute.)   Within these studies, the fattest of the fat, by large percentages, are women, who, Taubes infers, are giving the best food to their families (17-32). 

Taubes demonstrates that these poor people are not lazy, that they work hard, physical jobs.  And, like the investigating scientists, Taubes concludes that both malnutrition and subnutrition coexist in these populations because traditional patterns of living have been displaced and available food is mostly highly processed carbohydrates (17-32). 

The medical community, Taubes explains, uniformly swerved in the “head case” direction until well after World War II (84).  Historically, we know that post World War II America is when industry began providing more and more processed food, particularly the highly processed vegetable oils and margarines that replaced animal fats like butter, lard, and tallow.  And, we know that obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer rates all increased.

In the 1970s, Taubes relates, the practice of “behavioral medicine” emerged and the term “eating disorder” became the preferred label, but the “head case” tenants are still intact.  The psychological eating dictates are with us today:  slow down your eating and eat only in the kitchen or at the dining room table (84).  I’d add this one:  we eat when we’re emotionally disturbed in order to nourish ourselves—rather than understanding when we’re emotionally upset, we have more trouble controlling an unsatisfying diet.  Anyway, Taubes notes that today “many, if not most, of the leading authorities on obesity are psychologists and psychiatrists, people whose expertise is meant to be in the ways of the mind, not of the body”—an outcome that ignores the chemical connections between obesity and diabetes (84). 

How is it that certain people get to be “experts” in combating obesity?  Newburgh, for instance, was a doctor of medicine.  Yet, most medical doctors study neither nutrition nor the chemical impact of foods on the human body.  So, where are medical doctors getting their information?  Like most of us, not many medical doctors have time to sit down and figure out whom among the “experts” actually has adequate credentials, is asking the right questions, has formulated solid scientific answers in an independent arena that is not tainted by either personal belief system or corporate funding, whose work has withstood ensuing peer critique, and whose results have been duplicated. 

Today, we are struggling with pronouncements from a host of medical doctors who have written very famous diet books—and made a lot of money–but whose diets often prove ineffective or, even, unhealthy when scientifically tested.  Many of these books are predicated upon the lipid hypothesis (anti-saturated fat).  Taubes uses the 1960s turn toward the belief that animal fats are bad for us and carbohydrates “heart healthy” to describe the formation of the lipid hypothesis belief system:   “…doctors and nutritionists started attacking carbohydrate-restricted diets, because they bought into an idea about heart disease that was barely even tested at the time and would fail to be confirmed once it was….They believed it though, because people they respected believed it, and those people believed it because, well, other people they respected believed it” (160-161). 

We are struggling with information from “expert” organizations like the American Dietetic Association, whose partners and sponsors, as revealed by Zoe Harcombe in THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC,  include “Coca-Cola ($31.4 billion), PepsiCo ($44.3 billion), GlaxoSmith Kline ($45.2 billion), General Mills ($14.9 billion), SoyJoy ($9.2 billion), Mars ($30 billion) and many others” (Tim Boyd, book review of Zoe Harcombe, THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC:  WHAT CAUSED IT?  HOW CAN WE STOP IT?, in “Wise Traditions,” Winter 2010, 50-52). Corporate industry funds academic departments and specific scientists and successfully obfuscates bedrock science, just as it did with tobacco and is doing with many current drugs and toxic chemicals.       

And we are struggling with a government whose agenda and regulatory mechanisms are controlled largely by industry–a government who has, regardless of dissenting bedrock science, used its authority and our tax dollars to effect vast, damaging, and unsustainable changes in our food system since World War II.  Industry has bent our government and our legal system to its will–corporations are now people, but do not have the ethical responsibilities of people–which is a potential death knoll for what remains of our democracy.      

In 1977, when Senator George McGovern’s U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs—a group operating out of belief, not science, decreed that saturated animal fat was dangerous, Dr. Mary Enig, then a graduate student of biochemistry at the University of Maryland, was so puzzled that she analyzed the report and reached the opposite conclusions.  Enig’s own work pointed to the highly-processed vegetable oils and trans fats as the likely culprits in increasing rates of cancer and heart disease.  She noted that the McGovern committee had “manipulated the data in inappropriate ways in order to obtain untruthful results.”  She published her findings, and the edible oils industry not only successfully silenced her and her colleagues, they prevented them from getting any further research money.  Though Enig and her colleagues continued their research, it wasn’t until the 1990s when European work on trans fats began to be published that Enig was vindicated (http://www.stop-trans-fat.com/mary-enig.html).  Nevertheless, deadly trans fats, often labeled “partially hydrogenated fats,” are still allowed in our foods.  

So, who is benefitting from the current energy paradigm?  In the end, no one.

Mainely Tipping Points 14: Good Fats, Bad Fats

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Mainely Tipping Points 14

Good Fats, Bad Fats

           

Since the late 1970s, Americans have been encouraged by nutritionists, doctors, the government, and industry to eat less fats, especially the saturated fats once traditional in the American diet.  Yet, according to Dr. Mary Enig, an expert in the chemistry of fats, and Sally Fallon, both of the Weston A. Price Foundation, saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50 percent of our cell membranes and are what give our cells necessary stiffness and integrity.  Saturated fats play such an important role in the health of our bones that at least 50 percent of our dietary fats should be saturated.  And among their many other benefits, saturated fats enhance our immune systems (“The Skinny on Fats,” http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/526-skinny-on-fats.html). 

Today, Americans are deficient in the healthy fatty acids which support the healthy functioning of their bodies.

Beginning in 1980, the government recommended a diet which substituted carbohydrates for healthy fats and which has resulted in national obesity and chronic disease problems—as many scientists of that era feared.  The fats Americans now consume most often are denatured, highly refined, highly unstable, and are too rich in omega-6 fatty acids. 

So, what kinds of fats are healthy and necessary for humans?  Caroline Barringer, writing in the current July/August 2010 issue of WELL BEING JOURNAL and drawing on the work of Enig and Fallon, walks readers through the healthy fats terrain in a few short pages  (“Fats:  Safer Choices for  Your Frying Pan & Your Health,” 30-38).  You can buy a copy at Good Tern, Fresh Off the Farm, or online.  Enig and Fallon’s fully comprehensive information is available on-line.  See, especially, “The Skinny on Fats” and “The Oiling of America” at http://www.westonaprice.org

Understanding the chemical structures of fats and what industrial processing does to those structures helps one begin to understand which fats are dangerous and why.  Remember, Barringer reminds, that all fats are combinations of the following fatty acids.  For instance, beef tallow (which most of us use only to feed our birds in winter) is very safe for cooking and frying and is 50 to 55 percent saturated fat, 40 percent monounsaturated fat, and only 3 percent polyunsaturated fat.

Saturated fatty acid (SFAs) molecules are straight so can stack together tightly, which is why they are solid or semi-solid at room temperature.  The straight nature of SFA molecules makes them very stable, even at high temperatures, and they do not turn rancid easily.

Monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFAs) molecules have a slight bend.  They can still stack closely, but not as tightly as saturated fatty acid molecules, which is why they are liquid at room temperature, but semi-solid when refrigerated.  MUFAs are relatively stable and do not turn rancid easily.

Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFAs) molecules have two bends.  They cannot stack together well.  They are unstable, even at room temperature, and are easily damaged by heat, light, moisture, and exposure to oxygen.  They require refrigeration and turn rancid quickly and easily.  Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids are in the PUFA category.  But, consume only small amounts of some PUFAs and only if they are organic, unrefined, first cold-pressed or cold pressed, or expeller pressed, or extra virgin. 

 Industrial processing methods affect radically the structure of fats.  Traditionally, Barringer notes, seed and nut oils were extracted by pressing.  Industry crushes the seed/nuts; heats them to 230 degrees or more; presses them using high-pressures to squeeze out all fats, which generates further heat; and uses hexane (a solvent) to extract the last bits of oil.  (Hexane, a petroleum derivative, may cause infertility and central nervous system depression.)  Industry attempts to “boil off” the hexane, but some remains.  If the seeds/nuts are not organic, the hexane acts as a magnet for the chemicals sprayed on the nuts/seeds.  So, the final product is rancid, refined so no nutrients remain, and poisoned. 

Further, Enig and Fallon explain that the damaged molecules form “free radicals” with edges like razor blades.  Barringer notes that these free radicals “wreak havoc on the body, attacking and damaging DNA/RNA, cell membranes, vascular walls, and red blood cells,” which, in turn, leads to further problems.”  

Some of these highly processed oils, which are mostly PUFAs,  then undergo hydrogenation, which transforms oils that are liquid at room temperature to solids, which extends shelf life.  Margarine and shortening, for instance, are hydrogenated PUFA oils.  (MUFAs and some SFAs can be hydrogenated.)  Tiny particles of nickel oxide are added to the oil, then the mixture is exposed to hydrogen gas in a high-heat, high-pressure reactor which chemically straightens any bends in the molecule.  These altered molecules are trans fats.  Now, the oil is thin, watery, and smells foul as it is rancid.  Multiple thickeners and fillers are added, and the oil is steam cleaned (more heat) to remove the odor.  The grey-colored oil is bleached.  The resulting substance is vegetable shortening.  Artificial colors and flavors can be added to produce margarine. 

Our bodies, Barringer explains, do not recognize these kinds of fats as foods.  If we consume them regularly, “we lose the ability to utilize healthy fats properly.”   Further, when healthy fatty acids are displaced by these highly processed fake fats, our bodies become subject to cascading, serious health problems, like cancer, diabetes, birth defects, sexual dysfunction, heart disease, and poor bone health. 

So, Barringer warns, avoid trans fats “like the plague”—which is not easy because the FDA allows industry to claim “zero trans fats” when trans fats are present.  Read labels and look for hydrogenated oils, which are trans fats.  Do not buy products where the following words appear on the label:  refined, hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, or cold-processed (which is not cold- pressed.)

The safest fats for cooking are lard (pork fat); ghee (melted butter with the milky solids skimmed); tallow (beef and lamb fat); chicken, duck, and goose fat; coconut oil (organic and virgin); and red palm oil or palm kernel oil (organic and virgin).  You can, also, combine these fats.  Barringer likes coconut oil (92 percent saturated fat with powerful antimicrobial and antifungal properties and lauric acid–a medium chain fatty acid found in breast milk) combined with ghee or lard.  (I buy coconut oil by the case online from Wilderness Family Naturals.)  Barringer says red palm oil has a “pungent, paprika-like flavor” that is “best suited for roasting root vegetables,” like roasting red and white potatoes; red, yellow, and orange peppers; fresh garlic, and herbs.

Properly pressed olive oil, peanut oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and sesame oil are good for stir-frying.  Peanut oil should have limited use as it has a high percentage of omega-6 fatty acid. 

The following oils are unsafe for any kind of heat exposure:  vegetable/soybean oil, corn oil, flax oil, hemp oil, pine nut oil, pumpkin oil (roasted or raw), safflower oil, sunflower oil, and grapeseed oil.  These oils are almost 50 percent omega-6 fatty acids and should be consumed in moderation.  It is hard to find unprocessed versions.  Also, corn and soybean oil should be avoided as they are likely to be genetically modified and are grown with heavy pesticide levels.

Barringer, like Enig and Fallon, concludes that canola and cottonseed oil are unsafe to consume under any circumstances.  Canola is a highly processed industrial oil and does not belong in the human digestive tract.  Plus it is almost entirely a genetically modified crop.  Cotton is “one of the most genetically modified, pesticide-laden crops in America.”  And, asks Barringer, “when did cotton and its seed become a food?” 

Butter, especially real butter, is practically a medicine.  Butter, Barringer explains, is a cofactor that allows our bodies to utilize effectively calcium and other minerals we consume.  Butter contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in small amounts in a healthful ratio.  Butter contains conjugated linoleic fatty acids (CLA) for better weight management, muscle growth, and protection from cancer.  Butter contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K that help us absorb the trace minerals it also contains, among them zinc, selenium, iodine, chromium, and manganese.  Butter contains butyric fatty acids that provide “proper inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses to help us heal effectively.”  And, the fat in butter “enhances brain function and increases cell membrane integrity.”    

Eat organic butter!  Eat lots of it every day, especially if you can find raw butter.  (But, not with a lot of bread, which is a carbohydrate.)

Mainely Tipping Points 15: Rearranging Deck Chairs on theTitanic: The Proposed 2010 USDA Food Guide

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Mainely Tipping Points 15

Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic:

The Proposed 2010 USDA Food Guide

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have jointly released the proposed 2010 food guide to a fire storm of criticism.  But first, let’s review recent government food guide history.   

 The USDA presented a new food guide plan and pyramid design in 2005.  It will be considered current until the 2010 guide replaces it.  The 2005 graphic is fronted by a triangle composed of colorful triangular stripes representing five food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans).  Some triangles are bigger than others.  The front triangle is backed by a triangular set of steps with a stick figure climbing upwards.  A USDA web site (www.mypyramid.gov) allows an individual to enter personal information so that one of twelve personal pyramids is assigned.    

 Luise Light, hired by the USDA to design the 1980 USDA food guide, published WHAT TO EAT:  THE TEN THINGS YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW TO EAT WELL AND BE HEALTHY in 2006, which in part describes how USDA  political appointees manipulated Light’s proposed guide to favor industry.  Light warns that with the 2005 food guide the USDA is trying to please everyone, makers of junk food and proponents of nutritionally important foods.  The 2005 guide, warns Light, is built around calories, which translates that “all foods are good foods.”  One has only to count calories, even junk food calories, to be healthy. 

 But, Light explains, by shifting “the emphasis away from best food choices to a new food democracy where every food is equal,” the USDA ignored “research over the last ten years” that shows “the types of foods, ingredients, and eating patterns that are beneficial for health and weight” (85-86). 

I believe this strategy also removes responsibility from industry for producing unhealthy foods.  By emphasizing individual choice, it becomes the individual’s responsibility not to eat that which makes him or her fat or sick—even though highly processed fake foods, tainted foods, and chemically poisoned foods fill national supermarkets. 

Light explains that “more than half of all consumers in a nationwide survey” responded that they were confused by the new pyramid.  Yet, the USDA allocated no funds to promote the new guide.  Rather, the USDA planned to task industry with helping to educate Americans about food choices.  Light notes that the Idaho Potato Commission immediately announced that carbohydrates, including potatoes, are the best fuel for muscles. 

 But, Light reminds, in reality, the food guide was never meant to be “a tool for health promotion based on the latest scientific studies about healthy eating.”  And, she asks if it isn’t time that nutritional questions are “answered by knowledgeable, independent authorities without a vested interest.”  Right now, people are “told different things at every turn by physicians, teachers, dietitians, the government, and food marketers” (85-86). 

The government released the 2010 proposed food guide this spring and scheduled public hearings and organized a web site for public comments.  Criticism involves, in part, the fact that the proposed guide not only continues down the path that has produced a national obesity epidemic and chronic health problems, it ups the ante on its unscientific position regarding dietary cholesterol and saturated fats by further lowering recommended daily levels.  Under the new rules, one cannot eat an egg.  Or, cheese.  Yet eggs—nature’s perfect food–have sustained humans for thousands of years.  And, properly prepared cheese is a nutrient-dense food.              

Sally Fallon, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), in the winter 2009 WAPF quarterly journal WISE TRADITIONS, agrees that the 2005 guidelines were “not based on science but were designed to promote the products of commodity agriculture and—through the back door—encourage the consumption of processed foods.”  The 2010 guide, Fallon writes, is an exercise in rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.”  Indeed, Fallon notes, “putting the USDA in charge of the dietary guidelines is like letting the devil teach Sunday school (“President’s Message,” 2-3).   (See www.westonapricefoundation.org for extended analysis.)  

Fallon notes that the “USDA-sanctioned industrialization of agriculture,” has resulted in “a huge reduction in nutrients and increase in toxins in the American diet.”  Government food guides “have caused an epidemic of suffering and disease, one so serious that it threatens to sink the ship of state.”  The 2010 proposed guide is “a recipe for infertility, learning problems in children and increased chronic disease in all age groups.”  And, Fallon notes, while a growing number of Americans are figuring out what’s wrong with government-sponsored nutritional guides, millions in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and schools are trapped in the “Frankenstein creation” which is “a tragic and failed experiment” (2-3).   

 The American diet, Fallon notes, contains widespread deficiencies in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E.  But, Fallon explains, “there is no way for Americans to consume sufficient quantities of these critical vitamins while confined to the low-fat, low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol, low-calorie cage of the USDA dietary guidelines” (2-3).  

The WAPF argues that dietary cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D and that our cells need cholesterol for stiffness and stability.  And, the WAPF warns that the USDA committee is ignoring “basic biochemistry” that “shows that the human body has a very high requirement for saturated fats in all cell membranes.”  If we do not eat saturated fats, the body makes them from carbohydrates, but this process “increases blood levels of triglyceride and small, dense LDL, and compromises blood vessel function.”  Further, high carbohydrate diets do not satisfy the appetite, which leads to higher caloric intakes, bingeing, rapid weight gain and chronic disease.  This diet is “particularly dangerous for those suffering from diabetes or hypoglycemia, since fats help regulate blood sugar levels.”

The USDA committee’s solution, Fallon explains, is to “eat more `nutrient- dense’ fruits and vegetables.”  But, Fallon notes, “fruits and v”egetables are not nutrient-dense foods.”  Nutrients in plant foods do not compare with “those in eggs, whole milk, cheese, butter, meat and organ meats.”

Fallon points out that some USDA committee members are concerned with “the choline problem.”  Choline is “critical for good health and is especially necessary for growing children.  If choline intake is too low during pregnancy and growth, brain connections cannot form.  And, if choline is abundant during developmental years, the individual is protected for life from developmental decline” (2-3) 

Excellent sources of choline are egg yolks and beef and chicken liver.  Fallon notes that the National Academy of Sciences recommends amounts of choline consumption that violate the USDA’s proposed cholesterol limits.  So, she argues, “while we watch in horror the blighting of our children’s lives with failure to thrive, learning disorders, attention deficit disorder, autism and mental retardation, the committee is sticking to its anti-cholesterol guns.”  

Analysis on the WAPF web site details how the USDA committee has swept “the dangers of trans fat under the rug by lumping them with saturated fats, using the term `solid fats’ for both.”  This categorization hides the “difference between unhealthy industrial trans fats and healthy traditional saturated fats.”      

Also, notes the WAPF, the USDA committee has promoted “an increase in difficult-to-digest whole grains,” without specifying that all grains, nuts, seeds, and beans need to be soaked to remove the powerful antinutrient phytic acid.  (More on this subject later.) 

I agree with the WAPF assessment that the 2010 guide should be scrapped and that “the committee members should be replaced with individuals who have no ties to the food processing industry or to universities that accept funding from the food processing industry.”  I’ll bet Luise Light does, too.

Mainely Tipping Points 13: The Failure of the Low-Fat, High-Carbohydrate American Diet

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(Oops!  Read TP 12 first; it’s part of a series in the essays) 

Tipping Points 13

The Failure of the Low-Fat, High-Carbohydrate American Diet

 

 When Luise Light and her team of experts attempted to scientifically formulate the 1980 USDA Food Guide, they accepted two current dietary ideas as truth:  fat should be no more than 30 percent of the diet, and since the end of World War II, and especially in the 1960s, Americans had been experiencing “rising rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes” (13, Luise Light, WHAT TO EAT:  THE TEN THINGS YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW TO EAT WELL AND BE HEALTHY).

Current historians show us that the low-fat premise that has governed the American diet for the past fifty years sprang from belief, not science, and became part of American cultural and economic practices when the stars aligned around a constellation that included the political power of a congressional committee, media acceptance of its recommendations, and the firmly-held beliefs of a handful of people.

Science writer Gary Taubes, in his myth-exploding article “The Soft Science of Dietary Fat,” published in “Science” magazine in March 2001, questioned the idea that there ever was an epidemic of heart disease after World War II (http://www.nasw.org/awards/2001/The%20soft%20science.pdf).  When Taubes interviewed Harry Rosenberg, Director of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Rosenberg said a heart disease epidemic never existed.  First, in 1949 the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) added arteriosclerotic heart disease as a new category under the general category of heart diseases.  Between 1948-1949, the new category appeared to raise coronary disease death rates about 20 percent for males and 35 percent for females. 

Again, In 1965, the ICD added a category for coronary heart disease, which added more deaths to the statistical data as physicians began using the new categories.  Furthermore, Rosenberg explained, by the 1950s, Americans were healthier, so more were living to be 50-year-olds who would go on to die of chronic diseases like heart disease, which physicians were now listing on death certificates under the new categories.  Taubes reports that Rosenberg said that, in actuality, risk rates of dying from a heart attack remained unchanged.

Taubes also discussed the fact that between 1989 and 1992, three independent research groups (Harvard Medical School; The University of California, San Francisco, funded by the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office; and McGill University, Montreal) used computer models to work out added life expectancy for a person eating a low-fat diet that controlled saturated fats.  All three models agreed, but their conclusions have been ignored by media. 

The Harvard study showed that if a person’s total fat consumption was less than 30 percent of their daily total calories and if their saturated fat consumption was 10 percent of that 30 percent, a healthy nonsmoker might add from 3 days to 3 months of life.  The latter two studies showed net increase of life expectancy would be from three to four months.  Taubes noted that the U.S. Surgeon General’s office tried to prevent the University of California study from being published in “The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), but JAMA published it in June 1991.

The Lipid Hypothesis is the “scientific” paradigm calling for a low-fat diet.  The Lipid Hypothesis is the premise that ingested fat, especially saturated fat, raises blood cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol levels cause chronic heart disease (CHD).  Yet, many, many scientists now have argued that these cause-and-effect links have never been proven and, in fact, cannot be proven.  More recently than Taubes, Michael Pollan, in IN DEFENSE OF FOOD (2008), traces this history and current thinking on dietary fats in a section entitled “The Melting of the Lipid Hypothesis” (40-50). 

So how did the Lipid Hypothesis and the low-fat paradigm get installed with scant scientific data to support it?  Biochemist Ancel Keys is a key player.  In the mid 1950s, Keys (University of Minnesota) claimed that his epidemiological Seven Countries Study showed a correlation between the consumption of dietary fat and heart disease.  But, an epidemiological study cannot control or eliminate variables, and correlation is not proved causation.  Furthermore, many now, among them Taubes and Uffe Ravnskov, claim that Keys eliminated countries whose statistics did not fit his hypotheses, like France, Holland, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and West Germany, where national populations ate 30 to 40 percent of their calories as fat and whose death rates from CHD were half that of the United States.  Nevertheless, in 1961, the American Heart Association began advocating low-fat diets for men with high cholesterol levels.

Also in the 1950s, Nathan Pritkin, was diagnosed with heart disease.  Though he had no college degree and no scientific training, Pritkin created and published a low-fat, aerobic exercise regime that sold millions of copies.  Pritkin also suffered from leukemia, and it began causing complications and pain in the early 1980s.  Pritkin committed suicide in 1985.        

In 1977, the Congressional Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, chaired by Senator George McGovern, promoted the low-fat hypothesis—despite objections by scientists expert in the field.  Taubes determines that “a handful of McGovern staffers…almost single-handedly changed nutritional policy in this country” by initiating “the process of turning the dietary fat hypothesis into dogma” (4).

In 1976, Taubes reports, after two days of testimony, this committee turned “the task of researching and writing the first `Dietary Goals for the United States’” over to Nick Mottern, a labor reporter with “no experience writing about science, nutrition, or health” (5).  Mottern relied on Harvard School of Public Health nutritionist Mark Hegsted’s low-fat beliefs.  Hegsted, unlike E. H. Ahrens, whose laboratory at the Rockefeller University in New York City was doing seminal research on fat and cholesterol metabolism, saw no risks associated with such a major change to the American diet.  Ahrens, as early as 1969, was concerned that eating less fat or changing the proportions of saturated to unsaturated fats could have profound and harmful effects on the body (3-6).  Nevertheless, the Select Committee published Mottern’s dietary guidelines. 

Next, Taube relates, Carol Tucker Foreman, a political appointee at USDA who later forms a public relations and lobbying firm whose clients have included Phillip Morris, Monsanto (bovine growth hormone), and Procter and Gamble (fake fat Olestra), hired Hegsted to produce “Using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” which supported the McGovern Committee Report.  Foreman hired Hegsted despite the fact that Philip Handler, National Academy of Sciences (NAS) President and an expert on metabolism, had told her that Mottern’s Dietary Goals were “`nonsense’ “ (6).

When NAS released its own dietary guidelines a few months later (watch your weight and everything else will be all right), the media criticized the NAS for having industry connections.  Hegsted later returned to Harvard where his research was funded by Frito-Lay.

So, a consensus was achieved, oneTaube says is “continuously reinforced by physicians, nutritionists, journalists, health organizations, and consumer advocacy groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest” (1).  And, science was “left to catch up” (7).

 Only, science never has.  And, what has emerged is that all calories are not equal and substituting carbohydrates for fat has caused weight gain and diabetes.  And, according to lipid biochemist Mary Enig, substituting highly-processed fats for time-honored, traditional fats is causing chronic heart disease.   

Pollan notes that in a 2001 review of the relevant research and report by “prominent nutrition scientists” at the Harvard School of Public Health, “just about every strut supporting the theory that dietary fat causes heart disease” was removed, except for consuming trans fats and consuming fats that alter ratios of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids (41-42).  Pollan notes the Harvard scientists stated the following in their report’s second paragraph:  “`It is now increasingly recognized that the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences’ “ (43).    

Pollan assesses that the low-fat ideology of nutritionism has been nutrition’s “supreme test and, as now is coming clear, its most abject failure” (41).

Tipping Points 3: When Did This Happen?

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(You may want to read my essays in order.)

Tipping Points 3

April 3, 2010

When Did This Happen?

 I began reading food labels after passing out at my neighbors’ dinner table from a food reaction.  For  two decades I had been shopping the outside aisles of the supermarket where whole foods supposedly lived.  But, I had not questioned the sanctity of dairy products beyond ice cream—which often now included more than the five basic ingredients many food writers recommend as the watershed between real and fake foods.  Whip cream, I thought, for the cobbler I was planning. 

 The text on the front of the package of the All Purpose Whipping Cream read “super fresh” and “ultra-pasteurized, ” which meant raw milk had been preheated to just below 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then thermally processed to a temperature at or above 280 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two seconds.  Ultrapasteurization, which is suddenly more common, cooks milk.  This product lasts longer on the shelves–six months in an unrefrigerated aseptic (airtight, sterilized) container and up to 50 days in a refrigerated plastic milk container. 

The ingredient label read exactly as follows:  “cream, carrageenan (helps hold the whipped cream peaks), mono and diglycerides (made with vegetable oil, helps put air into the cream as it is whipping), and polysorbate 80 (made from corn oil, helps create stiff peaks).”  Wow, I thought, whipping raw heavy cream makes glorious peaks that last for days.  And, they’re not only killing the nutrients in the cream by cooking them, they’re cutting back on the cream and substituting seaweed and cheap highly processed vegetable oils.   

According to Dr. Mary Enig, a biochemist who is an internationally recognized authority on fats (Know Your Fats), the intensive processing of these vegetable oils breaks down their chemical structures into parts that act like razor blades in human veins and tissues.  These broken structures are the free radicals that cause heart disease.  

Enig is a scientist who since the 1970s has tried to tell the public how dangerous trans fats are, how untrue the lipid hypothesis used to demonize the animal fats people have eaten for centuries is, and how unhealthy the vegetable oils used to substitute for animal fats are.  When Enig tried to expose the scientific flaws in the lipid hypothesis, her work was successfully suppressed, and she never again got any funding.  She is associated with The Weston A. Price Foundation.  And, together with Sally Fallon, she wrote Nourishing Traditions and Eat Fat, Lose Fat (about healing diets).  Her lecture, The Oiling of America, delivered by Sally Fallon, is available on DVD.        

 Googling the ingredients on the AP cream carton shows that carrageenan is a gel-like thickening and stabilizing agent made from seaweed.  Polysorbate 80 is a surfactant (aids the blending of two liquids, like fats and water) and an emulsifier (helps the surfactant to blend).  Mayonnaise, for instance, is an oil-in-water emulsion made possible with the lecithin emulsifier in egg yolks.  Polysorbate 80 substitutes for egg yolks.  And, mono- and diglycerides are fats made, usually, from highly-processed soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, or palm oil.  They, too, act as emulsifiers.  And, they keep most baked products from getting stale.  In other processed foods, such as ice cream, margarine, instant potatoes, and chewing gum, they serve as stabilizers and give body and improved consistency. 

 Dr. Enig writes mono- and diglycerides are not just made from oils–they are the waste by-products of oil industry processing.  They are modern, cheap substitutes for lard and butter and, apparently, for egg yolks.  And, while they can be trans fats and do have some caloric value, industry is not required to list either condition on a label (WAPF web site).  

So, AP ultrapasteurized whipping cream is not a “super fresh” food—an oxymoron of stunning proportions.  It is a fake food.   

When did this happen?

Ann Vileisis, in Kitchen Literacy, describes how food additives have long been a problem in America.  As more people relocated to cities in the early 1900s, the food industry turned to preservatives to cut spoilage and reduce costs.  They used solutions of formaldehyde, salicylic acid, borax, and boracic acid, all of which “mask the natural signs of decomposition that had traditionally signified danger to cooks and eaters.”  The Pure Food and Drug Act, which required labels listing ingredients, was passed in 1906 after some of the largest manufacturers recognized that under the act, which would supercede state and local regulations, they could develop national markets that could and did squeeze out local and regional markets (126-134). 

Almost immediately, the distinction between man-made ingredients and “natural” ingredients became a political football.  Eventually, the act allowed the use of “artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives as ordinary parts of the American diet.”  The average shoppers of that era could not evaluate easily the additives on labels, so they came to rely on the government to protect them.  And, they use brand names as a marker of quality (126-134).

 But, The Pure Food and Drug Act did not prohibit the “inclusion of toxic ingredients in medicines,” and in 1937, a company used the untested drug sulfanilamide to treat streptococcal infections.  Sulfanilamide killed “more than a hundred people, mostly children,” which led to the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which required drug manufacturers to test toxicity and report findings to the FDA before a drug could be sold.  The act did not include provisions for toxicity testing for pesticides or food additives (177-178).  But,  Michael Pollan writes in In Defense of Food, and this is very important, it did require that the word “imitation” be listed with regard to “any food product that was, well, an imitation” (34-36). 

World War II shortages jumpstarted the creation of processed foods, which grew from about 1,000 products prewar to 4,000 or 5,000 new products postwar.  By 1950, one in four women worked outside the home, so there was both a loss of time and energy to cook and more money to buy processed food products (Vileisis 187).

The key shift to fake foods occurred in 1973 when industry succeeded in overturning the imitation label requirement.  Pollan writes that the change was not made by Congress, but by the FDA, which simply repealed the imitation labeling requirement within the depths of “a set of new, seemingly consumer-friendly rules about nutrient labeling.” The document stated that “as long as an imitation product was not `nutritionally inferior’ to the natural food it sought to impersonate,” it “could be marketed without using the dreaded `I’ word.”  The “regulatory door,” writes Pollen, “was thrown open to all manner of faked low-fat products:  Fats in things like sour cream and yogurt could now be replaced with hydrogenated oils or guar gum or carrageenan, bacon bits could be replaced with soy protein, the cream in `whipped cream’ and `coffee creamer’ could be replaced with corn starch, and the yolks of liquefied eggs could be replaced with, well, whatever the food scientists could dream up, because the sky was now the limit” (34-36). 

This process of nutritional equivalency—an equivalency decided by industry in collusion with the government, birthed the fake foods that now fill our supermarkets.  And, in turn, this process created a huge experiment that utilizes human subjects eating fake foods.  Look around you:  the experiment is not going well.

What we can do is eat the nutrient dense, whole, organic, local foods available in local markets, farmers’ markets, and our Community Shared Agriculture (CSAs) programs.  Support these markets, support local farmers, support eating foods in their natural seasons, and healthy food will return.  These foods may cost more, but you can make different decisions about what is really important in your life and give up something else in order to buy good food that nourishes your body.  Cheap foods are, in the end, enormously costly in so many ways, not the least of which is your own health and well being.