The Ten Week Challenge Syllabus

I walked people through a ten week challenge, using the following syllabus.

Week 1 - Sugar-free
Week 2 - Whole grains
Week 3 - Wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats
Week 4 - Raw dairy
Week 5 - The microwave
Week 6 - Fats and oils
Week 7 - Cultured and fermented foods
Week 8 - Local and organic produce
Week 9 - Processed foods
Week 10 - Implementing lifestyle changes

Visit my Recipe Index over at Going Green in a Pink World.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Week 6: Fats 101

This is the most challenging, and yet most crucial week, in my opinion. It's challenging because it flies in the face of what we've learned in school, messages from the media, and even our doctors' advice. My goal is to give you another point of view to consider, and my hope is that you will read this week's entries with an open mind. The majority of this information comes from the Weston A. Price website, and Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon

What is fat?
Simply, fats, also called lipids, are substances that don't dissolve in water. Generally, we call the solid substances fats, and the liquid substances oils. Lipids is the name for both kinds.

The Lipid Hypothesis
Many of us learned about the Lipid Hypothesis in school. The food pyramid has been structured around its presumptions. In the 1950s, a scientist named Ancel Keys developed a theory that the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet directly correlates with incidents of coronary heart disease. The logic is as follows:

Eat saturated fat and cholesterol, increase cholesterol in blood.
High Cholesterol in blood causes atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis causes heart disease.

Isn't that what's become common knowledge? "Don't eat too many eggs, too much red meat, bacon, cheese, whole milk, butter..." and on and on. Well, the Lipid Hypothesis doesn't stand on as much incontrovertible evidence as one would hope, considering an entire nation has built their food lifestyle around it. And yes, just a nation, and not the world. Our diet, called "SAD" (Standard American Diet), is considered to be just that - SAD! - to the majority of the world.

Ancel Keys was only one of a number of scientists who conducted a series of studies to explain a rapid rise in heart disease. In the early 1900s, less than 10 percent of the population died from heart disease. This number jumped to 30 percent in just a few decades. (It's now at 45% of all deaths today!!) Keys' peers had different opinions, and Dr. Dudley White, a well-known cardiologist of that era, pointed out that animal fats and butter consumption decreased during this time period, and margarine and vegetable oils more than tripled. Dr. White (who also happened to be President Eisenhower's physician), along with many others in the scientific community, was a proponent of going back to a more traditional diet, including meat, eggs, milk, and cheese. There were still others who backed Ancel Keys and pointed to work by a researcher named David Kritchevsky, who conducted a study using oxidized cholesterol and rabbits. He found that by injecting the rabbits with this cholesterol, they developed plaque in their arteries. This would have been a compelling study if not for two major flaws: one, the plaque the rabbits developed was different than that which develops in humans; and two, the cholesterol was not from a natural source, but rather was denatured through heavy processing, so the findings are not considered scientifically viable or relevant!

So Why Is The Lipid Hypothesis Still Kicking Around?!
By the 1970s, the powerful food industry had a food hold. The Lipid Hypothesis provided justification for the inclusion of cheap vegetable oils in processed foods (which were gaining popularity as both adults in the home began working - or the only adult in the home worked - and preparing food was no longer a luxury or a priority). Grants and funding were given to those whose research would support the use of processed vegetable oils, but scientists looking to investigate more traditional fats have consistently struggled to gain support for their work. Additionally, the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry has been able to profit greatly from the idea that high cholesterol leads to heart disease. If the results from the International Atherosclerosis Project, published in Laboratory Investigations had been given the attention it deserved, perhaps we wouldn't need Big Pharma much at all. Researchers working on the project performed 22,000 autopsies on corpses from 14 nations. Their findings were remarkable. Despite the diet of the population - from vegetarian to those consuming high levels of animal products - they found the same levels of artery blockage in those who had LOW cholesterol as in those who had HIGH cholesterol, thus refuting the idea that high cholesterol causes heart disease.

There's study after study contradicting the lipid hypothesis. I'm not going to go through them all here, because others have done an excellent job compiling the information. If you're interested, check out Dr. Mary Enig's article, "The Skinny on Fats."

So What Does This Mean for Me?
Well, I'm hoping you'll consider adding some more fats to your diet. Stay tuned for posts on the three types of fats!

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