- History of the American Shift to Inflammatory Vegetable Oils
- The “Lipid Hypothesis:” Silenced Evidence Regarding Cholesterol
- Problems Surrounding Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats?
- Some Positive Benefits of Cholesterol?
- Health Tips for Cholesterol and Inflammation
- Health Tips for Weight Loss…From the Science Lab
March Recipes: Homemade Butter; A Blended Stable Oil for Healthy Cooking
To read this newsletter in pdf, click March08Newsletter
March means wind. Wind is movement, and it brings change. March is a time of transition from winter to summer, just as November, the other transitional windy month, moves us from late summer into winter. Wind also moves us, in any season of the year, from rain back to sunshine and sometimes, when storms kick up, from sunshine back to rain. Have you ever noticed how, after rain, the wind picks up, dries out the ground, sweeps away the clouds, and invites back the sun?
According to Chinese medicine, wind is associated with spring and also with change and disharmony. Wind is called a “Pernicious Influence.” Pernicious Wind disrupts, moves, and disturbs balance. Wind can weaken us and push us toward illness as our body tries to adapt from winter to spring/summer. March, then, is a month when our health is relatively more vulnerable, especially to dampness and mucus-type illness. It is a good month to consume healthy fats and oils, particularly those high in anti-microbial lauric acid, and to avoid denatured vegetable oils, especially trans fats, which depress the immune system.
Polyunsaturated Fats, Trans Fats, Cholesterol and Lipitor
The last century has seen a dramatic change in the fats that Americans eat. In the first 50 years of the last century, the typical American sharply curtailed butter consumption, as butter use fell to half its prior levels. It continued to decline over the last half of the century, reaching an all-time low by the 1990s. But,the most astounding and interrelated change over this same almost-100-year period was the
“15-fold increase in the consumption of liquid vegetable oils, from slightly less than 2 grams per person per day in 1909 to over 30 [grams/person] by 1993.…By the 1990s, the United States had been transformed from a healthy nation consuming real foods, including traditional animal fats and tropical oils, into a decidedly unhealthy nation that ate mostly imitation foods based on vegetable oils. 1”
In a different realm and in more recent times, drugs to lower cholesterol were taking off. Just in the last two decades, statin drugs to lower cholesterol accounts for today’s multi-billion dollar industry. Lipitor sales total $12.5 billion a year, or 6.5% of total drug company revenues. More than 26 million Americans have been prescribed Lipitor, with 16 million Americans taking it on a regular basis.
Drug companies, with the support of the edible oil industry, processed food companies, and advertising firms have succeeded in making cholesterol a major health “problem.” Amazing, really, when no study has ever been able to prove definitively a link between cholesterol and heart disease2 is still even more amazing considering the side effects of cholesterol drugs and the fact that the Pfizer admits that “Lipitor has not been shown to prevent heart disease or heart attacks.3” According to Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, high cholesterol is
“actually an invented disease, a ‘problem’ that emerged when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels in the blood. …High cholesterol exhibits no outward sign—unlike other conditions of the blood, such as diabetes or anemia…Many people who feel perfectly healthy “suffer” from high cholesterol…Doctors who treat this new disease must first convince their patients that they are sick and need to take one or more expensive drugs for the rest of their lives, drugs that require regular checkups and blood tests.4
So while the sales of butter and other saturated fats have plummeted; sales of denatured vegetable oils, trans fats, and statin drugs have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, we know that obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic disease continue to rise. One hundred years ago, when Americans ate butter, lard, and whole foods, there was no significant heart disease, type-2 diabetes, or obesity. Can we really blame butter and saturated fat for our nation’s health problems?
What forces can explain a 15-fold increase in liquid oil consumption and the growth of cholesterol-lowering medications and drug company profits?
Through the work of three powerful, profit-hungry groups… the edible oil industry, the food companies that make packaged convenience foods, and the drug manufacturers…this remarkable shift has taken place.
With obesity and chronic disease on the rise, we need to step back and look at the bigger picture. The pervasive mantra is to steer away from fats, especially saturated fats. Foods with cholesterol are to be avoided.
The evolution of fats to cheap, man-made convenience products is a fascinating one. Many helpful articles and scientific studies about cholesterol and heart disease have been silenced or sidetracked because they did not fit the popular “paradigm”… that we should avoid saturated fats and cholesterol for fear of heart disease.
Don’t we need to ask:
- What is the long-term impact to the liver of cholesterol-lowering drugs? Some experts believe fewer than one in a hundred people taking these drugs really “need” them.5 Also, testing results may need to be questioned because we test drugs in controlled settings on rather healthy people. Drug testing usually runs for a period of only six months, and at the most two years, and on generally healthy subjects. But, what happens when these petroleum-based, synthetic drugs are taken over a prolonged period of time by a less-vibrant patient population? The body is not set up to deal with synthetic drugs. What happens in the real world to real patients, many with a host of imbalances and chronic disease, when they take these drugs not for six months but perhaps for a period of 10, 12, or even 20 years? These individuals are the true test group, and we have yet to record the ultimate results.
- When we strip away from vegetable oils through the refining process the natural antioxidant protection from vegetable oils in the refining, bleaching, and deodorizing (RBD) process, we pave the way for free radical damage in the body. With unpaired electrons, these oils are very reactive. Antioxidants packaged naturally in traditional oils can protect fats from oxygen damage: Organic butter and unrefined coconut oil come with their own natural storehouse of protective antioxidants. Since some experts believe that the cholesterol “problem,” is not so much cholesterol but oxidized LDL cholesterol, we need to be leery of these stripped, denatured oils.
- How does our body adapt to a 15-fold increase in vegetable oil consumption in the short space of just 100 years? [Perhaps this forces the body to make more cholesterol as a counterbalance to the excess of poly-unsaturated, inflammatory omega-6 oils.] Or, the incorporation of trans fats into the American diet in just the last 50 years? A century or less provides no time at all for our system to adapt from the traditional fats consumed over eons to new, denatured, man-made products.
- Since many doctors now believe that the most meaningful cholesterol ratio is total triglycerides/HDL, we may need to shift our attention away from saturated fats to refined vegetable oils, as well as to sugar and refined flour. Rather than saturated fats, these latter two have an impact on blood triglyceride levels. Since fats help curb hunger by helping us feel satisfied, popular low-fat diets can leave a person feeling unsatisfied, ever searching for inflammatory, metabolic-stress related snack foods, thus exacerbating the cholesterol problem. People have to eat something. If fats are not allowed, we are naturally pushed toward eating more of the “safer” low-fat, high-carbohydrate foods that wind up boosting blood sugar, insulin levels, and inflammation, which are all related to chronic disease.
- Interesting, with the influence of the drug companies, the recommended target range for cholesterol has dropped steadily since the introduction of more and more cholesterol-lowering drugs? In 1983, the range was 340-359 mg/dl. The guideline for doctors was then lowered to 330-319 in 1986; and 240-259 in 1990.6 Then, in the very same year, it was lowered again to 200-219 mg/dl. Today, the target range is down to 180 mg/dl, with today’s guidelines for doctors suggesting selective testing and treatment for young adults and even for children. All this despite evidence not only of side effects, but also that people with low cholesterol levels sustained over a prolonged period (20 years) will have the highest incidence of mortality.7
- Why do we blame foods for high blood cholesterol levels, when the body makes about three-quarters of all the cholesterol required? Only 25% comes from food.8 We are not able to eat enough food to supply our body with sufficient cholesterol.9 The body is smart and knows that cholesterol is essential for life: The body needs cholesterol for a host of important body functions (for hormone production, neurological function, digesting fats, making vitamin D, for the bones and mineral metabolism, insulin production, immune function, and repairing and maintaining cells and cell membranes). The brain IS cholesterol…cholesterol is the major organic molecule of the brain and accounts for more than half its dry weight. Low cholesterol levels is tied to loss of memory, mental dysfunction, depression and aggressive behaviors. In addition, cholesterol is needed to facilitate serotonin receptors to help us feel good.10
- For proper function, cell membranes need healthy fats in the right proportions (cell walls are made from phospholipids, which are 50% saturated and 50% unsaturated fats). The 15-fold increase in polyunsaturated fats might be one of the reasons the body has to make high levels of cholesterol to compensate. It seems logical, since excessive consumption of oils can make cell membranes too “floppy,” that the body is forced to make cholesterol as a “stiffening” agent for cell membranes to create the necessary rigidity and permeability. It reminds me of misreading the directions for making oatmeal: when you accidentally start with too much water, you have to add more oats to achieve the desired consistency. Perhaps the body reacts similarly to have the proper raw materials it need to construct cell membranes.
- If high cholesterol is correlated with high levels of stress, might we be wiser to take a more holistic view and look at overall diet and lifestyle? For stress reduction, we might as readily prescribe whole foods, exercise (the best antioxidant), yoga or mediation as readily as Lipitor.
- What are the long-term implications of trans fats? What do trans fats do to metabolism, cellular communication and function, fertility and hormone balance, and DNA replication? In the thousands of years of human evolution, we are asking a lot of our body to adapt in just several decades to a cheap “plasticized” fat. We are the test group.
Last month’s newsletter outlined some of the basic ideas related to fats and oils. With that background, I want to take you on a journey…first, to some milestones on the timeline of the evolution and dramatic transformation of fats in our diets today. Then, let’s explore some scientific evidence that has been sidetracked and shelved because it did not fit the popular paradigm. This notion is known as the “lipid hypothesis,” the idea that saturated fats are behind the problem of cholesterol and heart disease. It has been important for the food and the drug companies to keep it front and center to assure the skyrocketing sales both of vegetable oils and trans fats, as well as of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Timeline of the Evolution of Traditional Fats Compared to Man-Made Fats
It is not clear just when species homo sapiens evolved generally to what we think of as his counterpart today. Experts put the start of man as we know him perhaps around 40,000 B.C. That would mean some about 42,000 years that man survived (quite well) on a traditional diet of whole foods with their natural antioxidants, as well as traditional fats from wild, grass-fed animals, raw dairy products, and nuts and seeds (and even bugs).. These fats provided for traditional cultures a healthy blend of saturated animal fats,11 as well as essential fatty acids (omega-3 and -6 oils) from nuts and seeds. With adequate saturated fats, traditional cultures did not need high amounts of essential fatty acids (EFAs) because the body conserves them when it is provided adequate amounts of saturated fats.
Recall that man-made fats such as refined, denatured vegetable oils and trans fats have entered the scene and gained prominence only in the last 50-100 years or so. This translates to just 0.002, or o.2% of the time that man has walked earth. Obviously, we have not allowed a lot of time for the body to adapt to the trans fats and denatured “free-radical” oils.
Milestones of the American “Oil Change;” Journey to the 15-Fold Increase in Polyunsaturated Vegetable Oils12
- Hydrogenation began in the United States in 1910 and Crisco, marketed as a replacement to lard, first surfaced on grocery shelves in 1911.
- By the 1940’s, through the “miracle” of hydrogenation, cheap domestic vegetable oils composed 90% of the fat in margarines.
- By the 1950s, seed oils were so abundant (and cheap) that, in their hydrogenated forms, they began to flow into fast food restaurants, as well as into the burgeoning markets of convenience bakery products, snack foods, and prepared foods for the supermarket shelf.
- The 1980s saw perhaps the most dramatic growth in trans fat consumption, particularly in its hidden forms: the same fast food item that contained 2.4% trans fats in 1982, was “saturated” with 19.2% just ten years later.
The Evolution of the Lipid Hypothesis: Discarded Pieces from Scientific Studies Might Have Shaped a Different Cholesterol Conclusion…
The paradigm driving scientific research on cholesterol for decades has been the “lipid hypothesis.” The term, coined by Ancel Keys in the 1950s, was the hypothesis that saturated fats and cholesterol in foods affect cholesterol levels in the blood and result in cardiovascular disease.
Scientific studies such as a random control clinical trial (RCCT) are the “gold standard” of scientific testing. They are expensive. Thus, many are performed with the funding of large corporations with vested interests. This leads to the temptation that, when results do not fit the paradigm, researchers often discard as “noise” meaningful data.
The paradigm driving scientific research on cholesterol for decades has been the “lipid hypothesis.” The term, coined by Ancel Keys in the 1950s, was the hypothesis that saturated fats and cholesterol in foods affect cholesterol levels in the blood and result in cardiovascular disease. The theory was furthered by the (faulty) research of David Kritchevsky in 1954 who experimented by feeding rabbits oxidized, purified cholesterol. (This has no biochemical relationship to the cholesterol in real food.) Kritchevsky ultimately realized his flawed analysis and renounced his conclusions in 1998. While his apology came a little late for the rest of us, it was certainly appreciated and trumpeted by the edible oil and food industries. With Kritchevsky’s study, published in the American Journal of Physiology in 1954, the theory was off and running.
With this study, the edible oil industry and the processed food companies set out first to give butter a bad name and to encourage the public to switch to “healthy” margarines. Later, their campaign grew to include “saturated” unrefined tropical oils, as well. By successfully silencing a variety of pieces of conflicting scientific evidence, the food industry cemented into the American mindset the idea to avoid saturated fats. The road was then well-paved for their “healthy” polyunsaturated vegetable oils and for cheap, hidden tran fats, which did not have to be disclosed and labeled until 2006.
By the 1970s, the lipid hypothesis was widely accepted. It was touted by Harvard University’s Department of Nutrition and was adopted by the American Heart Association and the Food and Drug Association. This green light was much to the delight of the edible oil industry and the processed food companies, and they did everything in their power to keep it burning brightly.
By the early 1980s, the drug companies, with their newly-discovered cholesterol-lowering drugs, entered the picture. The lipid hypothesis was truly here to stay.
As Mary Enig notes:
“This theory is [now] so prevalent, so widely believed, and so fundamental to the modern treatment of cardiovascular illness, that up until now, you’ve probably never heard that it is only one theory of heart disease, and that a different reading of the data, along with volumes of other research supports a very different conclusion: that saturated fats do not contribute to heart disease and in fact actually protect us against this and many other diseases.13 “
As Enig sees it, the lipid hypothesis offered in the 1950s the model of “truth” for doctors struggling to explain the rapid rise of heart disease in America. Heart disease, which accounted for fewer than 10% of all deaths in 1900, explained 30% by 1950. Yet, between 1900 and 1950, the use of margarine rose four-fold; vegetable oils three-fold, while butter consumption dropped in half.
Let’s look at some of the pieces of evidence that were quieted along the way.
- Way back in the 1950’s, Dudley White, President Eisenhower’s renowned and prescient cardiologist, spoke out immediately against the lipid hypothesis. Dudley White pointed out that the 1900-1950 steep rise in heart disease was coincident with the sharp increase in vegetable oil consumption and the decline in saturated fats. He, along with a few other scientists, recognized that refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils and partially hydrogenated oils, as well as refined flour and additives…all ingredients in the newly emerging market of processed, convenience foods… were major culprits. As he noted, “I began my practice as a cardiologist in 1921…back in the MI-free [myocardial infarction] days before 1920, the fats were butter and lard and I think that we would all benefit from the kind of diet that we had at that time when no one ever heard the words ‘corn oil.14 ‘”
- By 1956, just two years after his pioneering published research suggesting the lipid hypothesis, Ancel Keys was already reversing his position: He recanted, suggesting that hydrogenated vegetable oils might, in fact, be the true building block of heart disease.
- Follow-ups to the 40-year cohort Framingham Study (the first major government-sponsored study of heart disease that began in 1948) showed little difference in the cholesterol levels of those with and without heart attacks. Almost half with low cholesterol levels suffered heart attacks. Middle-aged and older men died just as often whether cholesterol levels were high or low. People whose cholesterol had declined over the first 30 years of the study had a higher risk of dying than those whose cholesterol had increased.15
- A long-term, longitudinal study of Canadian war veterans, who were hospitalized in 1963, traced their cholesterol history over the lifecycle. Researchers found that, while cholesterol levels varied greatly among subjects, that a person’s cholesterol levels, whether high or low, remained rather constant throughout their life. A veteran with low cholesterol at the beginning of the study, for example, would have a similar low level years later and also at death. Perhaps more interesting, there appeared no real difference in cardiovascular disease between men with low or high cholesterol.
- Earlier in the postwar period, some government sources were also speaking out: according to the preface to The Yearbook of Agriculture, 1966, Protecting Our Food: “…unsaturated fatty acids…are softer—some more liquid at room temperature—and are much less stable [than saturated fats.] Hence these are most subject to attack by oxygen. But the attack on fats by oxygen can be prevented by antioxidants. These antioxidants are present naturally in most vegetable oils, but those classes of antioxidants and synergists (which potentiate antioxidants) were generally lost in the refining process…because of our desire for…vegetable oils that are clear and sparkling.”
- In a meta study of women and cholesterol, the results compiled from all cholesterol studies performed on women and published in 1992, showed that “high cholesterol readings, even as high as 1000 mg/dl, are not risk for heart disease. In fact, for women, low cholesterol appeared to be more dangerous.”((Enig and Fallon, p. 29.)) This study, updated in 2003, confirmed these results, showing no significant decline in mortality for women treated with statins.16
- A report issued in 2001 from the Honolulu Heart Program suggests that “the earlier [and therefore, the longer] that patients start to have lower cholesterol concentrations, the greater the risk of death…17 ” Fallon and Enig, in their recent Dangers of Statin Drugs, support this idea, pointing out the risks of too low levels of cholesterol… a factor that can lead to depression, stroke and aggressive behaviors. Heart attack patients are even given cholesterol-lowering drugs even if their cholesterol is already low.
- A recent study by Bernard Henning, in the 2001 Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggests that the high levels of omega-6 fatty acids from polyunsaturated vegetable oils are the real cause of pathological changes in the cells that line arteries, and therefore are the basis for cardiovascular disease.
- Sally Fallon and Mary Enig believe that statin drugs can actually increase the risk of heart disease by depleting the body of Coenzyme Q 10, the lack of which can lead to heart failure. Cells in the body need Co-Q 10 to produce energy. The heart is especially vulnerable because it requires constant and sustained energy. One of the major side effects of statins is muscle aches and pains? (Although researchers are not sure why, this problem shows up more readily in active people.)
- Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of The No Grain Diet, reinforces Dudley White’s initial concerns way back in the 1950s about sugar and refined carbohydrates. He points to these as a real problem since they raise triglyceride levels, a great risk factor in heart disease. [Note the irony of a low-fat (which has to mean high-carbohydrate…you have to eat something) diet potentially exacerbating cardiovascular disease.]
- In 1998, David Kritchevsky, who helped popularize the lipid hypothesis, was also reversing fields when he concluded, “it may be necessary to re-evaluate our conclusion and preventive medicine policies.”
What are some of the side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs? Statin drugs inhibit a special enzyme (HMG-CoA) that not only blocks the production of cholesterol, but also a host of other essential biochemical processes in the body. Blocking this enzyme can lead to a myriad of side effects, including heart failure, muscle and joint pain and weakness, memory loss and impaired mental function (recall that the majority of the organic material of the brain is cholesterol), depression and aggressive behaviors, dizziness, and cancer (Statins depress the immune system; statins also inhibit squalene, which has anti-cancer effects and is involved in the production of cholesterol.)18
The average annual cost for a healthy person on statins runs $900-$1400 a year. This, multiplied by the 36 million targeted by the drug companies as people who “need” statins, would obviously drain huge monies (perhaps some $40 billion) from medical funds needed and otherwise available for the truly ailing, needy, and young and elderly portions of the population. Drug companies spend $4 billion a year on advertising and $12 billion a year on wooing doctors. It takes a concerted effort on our part to break through the morass to try to think clearly and to think for ourselves.
While no one has all the answers, it is good to consider what these studies and these experts can offer. Each allows us material for evaluation as we accept the responsibility for our health decisions.
What’s “Bad” About Refined Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats?
To make “clear, sparkling” supermarket vegetable oils (corn, canola, safflower, etc.) seed oils are first stripped of vital nutrients, such as lecithin, chlorophyll, vitamin E, beta carotene, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus and then deodorized at high temperatures, approaching 500 degrees. There is nothing left to taste and nothing to go rancid, so you never know if the oil is bad. Almost all restaurants use these refined white oils due to their long shelf life. But, because they are missing nutrients, it is hard for the body to break them down. Cancer can be a direct result of bad fatty acid metabolism.19
Trans fats are unsaturated oils whose natural bent (cis-shape) structure has been altered and straightened (to a trans-shape), by high temperatures, pressure, and a limestone catalyst. In its natural cis-shape, an unsaturated oil’s hydrogen atoms lie on the same side of the double bond and repel each other, which creates a slight bend in the carbon chain, as well as an important electron cloud (vital to high-order energy and electric processes) at the site of the double bond.20 High temperatures flip the hydrogens to opposite sides of the carbon molecule, straightening its structure and diffusing its original life-giving force.
This slight change to a straighter trans-shape dramatically alters its character, its capacity for vital functions, and its effect on health. Trans fats block the efficient deployment of EFAs. This has important implications for cancer and the immune system. Because trans fats almost fit, they fool the body and interfere in many other ways, especially with enzyme activity and the building and function of cell membrane structures. They alter cell permeability, jeopardizing cell integrity and function. Since trans fats have a higher melting point and are thus “sticky” they foster platelet aggregation, encouraging blood clotting and strokes. Trans fats also interfere with complex and intricate neurological electrical energy and cellular communication activity throughout the body.
Trans fats, then, are synthetic fats that cannot be metabolized properly and foster chronic disease. Trans fats raise insulin levels (tied to obesity, diabetes, degenerative disease); lower immune response and HDL cholesterol; contribute to Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, arthritis, and aging.21 Because trans fats “interfere with enzyme systems in the body. These disrupt enzymes (delta-6 desaturase) that convert omega-3s and -6s to elongated forms for sophisticated neurological and biochemical processes. They also disarm enzymes that make carcinogens harmless while they increase enzymes that make carcinogens more toxic”22 Thus, they are a major cause of cancer.
What’s “Good” About Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is vital to life and to the life of very cell. It provides antioxidant protection and proper stiffness to cell membranes and contributes to the proper functioning of cell receptors. It plays an important role in brain function, in the development of vision, in healing, in the creation of vitamin D3, in hormone and insulin production and balance, in immune function, and in the assimilation of fats through it role in producing bile salts.
First, our body makes it. As long as we do not tamper, we can trust our body to know what it needs. It will make extra cholesterol when it does not get enough from food. The more we ingest, the less the body must make. It is not possible for a person to consume enough cholesterol in food to meet all needs.23
Cholesterol is not truly a fat. Nor is it used in the body for energy. Cholesterol is really a “heavyweight alcohol with a hormone-like structure that behaves like a fat…insoluble in water and in blood.24” Nature had to clothe it in a water-permeable lipoprotein coating so that it could flow about in the bloodstream to do its important work. Cholesterol is vital to life and to the life of very cell. It provides antioxidant protection and proper stiffness to cell membranes and contributes to the proper functioning of cell receptors. It plays an important role in brain function, in the development of vision, in healing, in the creation of vitamin D3, in hormone and insulin production and balance, in immune function, and in the assimilation of fats through it role in producing bile salts.
Cholesterol’s “bad” name can be traced, in part, to the edible oil industry, discussed above. It can also be traced to our modern lifestyle that creates disruptions and interferences for the body as it attempts to go about the tasks that nature programmed it to do. One such factor is the modern diet of refined sugar, flour, and oils, all of which are stripped of their protective antioxidants. The other factor is the excessive consumption of “fragile” polyunsaturated oils. Both these factors contribute to the oxidation of cholesterol. Cholesterol’s bad name may also stem from its positive role as a healing agent: as cholesterol is called into service to “patch” damaged arteries it is left behind to blame. (Is this similar faulting a Band-aid for the cut underneath?)
Sally Fallon and Mary Enig offer some dietary tips for those people concerned about cholesterol. They explain in “A Better Way:”
If statins work, they may do so by reducing inflammation, not because they lower cholesterol. Statins block the production of mevalonate leading to inhibition of platelet clumping and reduction of inflammation in the artery wall. However, simple changes in the diet can achieve the same effect without also cutting off the body’s vital supply of cholesterol:
- Avoid trans fats, known to contribute to inflammation
- Avoid refined sugars, especially fructose, known to stimulate clumping of the blood platelets
- Take cod liver oil, an excellent dietary source of anti-inflammatory vitamin A, vitamin D, and EPA
- Eat plenty of saturated fats, which encourage the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins
- Take evening primrose, borage or black currant oil, sources of GLA which the body uses to make anti-inflammatory prostaglandins
- Eat foods high in copper, especially liver; copper deficiency is associated with clot formations and inflammations in the arteries (I know that this seems counter-intuitive since we often think to avoid foods like liver due to its high cholesterol.)
- Consume unrefined coconut oil and coconut products; coconut oil protects against bacteria and viruses that can lead to inflammation in the artery wall
- Avoid reduced-fat milks and powdered milk products (such as powdered whey); they contain oxidized cholesterol, shown to cause irritation of the artery wall.
If you do take statins, you might want to incorporate more whole foods, exercise, and stress-reducing activities. Over time, these may help you to lower your cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are also a good idea since they help protect the liver from toxins, including alcohol and Tylenol.
Spring means the approach of bathing suit season. We need only the reminder of longer days and daylight savings. For some, March means a spring vacation and heading south to the sunny beach. Fats play an important role in weight loss, particularly by making us feel satisfied at the end of a meal. This is intuitive and empirical. But there are a host of interesting concepts that come from the science lab that might inspire any in the quest of weight loss to abandon the low-fat diet concept and add back in healthy, saturated fats. Good fats boost not only metabolism, but also immune function.
Another important concept from the science lab is to eat enough calories to prevent your body from going into “starvation mode.” The body requires somewhere between 1000-1800 calories a day just to maintain itself. This minimum level is required for the normal function of the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc., as well as for such things as cell maintenance and repair. When calorie intact drops below this minimum level, a bell signaling famine goes off in the body, telling it to hoard calories. This mechanism seems especially active in women, perhaps as a safety for reproduction. When this occurs, calorie restriction becomes self-defeating. A drop in metabolism also means immediate weight gain the moment that a person returns to a normal calorie intact. Good fats help boost metabolism, create satiety, stabilize blood sugar, and help you “stay the course.”
Health concepts regarding fats facts from the science lab:
- Coconut oil is a key to dieting, since it boosts metabolism. It is easily absorbed and utilized. The body uses it for energy more rapidly than any other fat. It is burned at a rate three times faster than other fats. Part of the reason for this relates to the high lauric acid content of coconut oil (see February ’08 Newsletter). Lauric acid, an effective antimicrobial, accounts for half of the content of coconut oil, and it is the most rapidly utilized of all the fatty acids.
- Coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA). A MCFA requires energy to be metabolized, in fact, more energy than it supplies. Also, MCFAs are burned so quickly and efficiently that they are generally not stored as body fat. MCFAs are the body’s “go-to” source of energy. (MCFAs are not generally found in the chylomicrons that carry fat in the blood stream to the liver. Thus, there is no vehicle for them to be carried to the adipose tissue.)
- Coconut oil elevates the body thermostat. By boosting metabolism, it raises body temperature, metabolic rate, and energy and a sense of well-being.
- Butter is a short-chain fatty acid with just 4 carbons. Coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid with 12 carbons. Short and medium chain fatty acids have fewer calories that longer chain (18 carbons) vegetable oils. Butter is a powerful antimicrobial, with the proper balance of omega-3s and -6s, as well as a wonderful source of a variety of trace minerals, including selenium. Butterfat also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which helps to fight cancer.27
- Vegetable oils stay in the blood stream longer, and when not needed, they get stored in the adipose tissue as fat. (Refined vegetable oils are, like sugar, empty calories.)
- Cod liver oil, high in vitamins A and D, is also helpful for weight loss. It provides necessary vitamin D to help the body utilize insulin. Vitamin A helps adrenal function and aides diabetics, who are not able to utilize beta carotene in foods. Fish oils are high in EPA and DHA, which are precursors of prostaglandins that help regulate metabolism.
- Fats in the small intestine help silence hunger pangs. The body reacts to fat in the small intestine by releasing hormones that quiet hunger contractions.
- Non-dairy sources of calcium stimulate weight loss. (Seaweeds, along with green vegetables are a good choice. Seaweeds are the highest source of calcium and, due to their high levels of iodine, they also help boost thyroid function.)
- Trans fats, like vegetable oils but even more so, should be avoided. Trans fats, not only disrupt the normal biochemistry of the body, but they also play havoc with weight loss. Trans fats depress metabolism and foster diabetes. Holding calories constant, people gain more weight on diets that include trans fats. Trans fats affect adipose cell size. Trans fats are packed in different cells and less tightly than saturated fats.
Mary Enig, Know Your Fats
Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions
Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, Eat Fat to Lose Fat
Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, Dangers of Statin Drugs
Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods
Udo Eramus, Fats that Kill, Fats that Heal
Ronald Schmid, Traditional Foods are Your Best Medicine
The Cholesterol Myth, by Uffe Ravnskov
www.thincs.org , the International Network of Cholesterol Skeptic, a group of scientists who dispute the idea that cholesterol causes heart disease.
Recipes for March: Home-Made Butter;Mary Enig’s Blended Oils for Cooking
Home-Made Butter (Rikki Carroll, from Home Cheese Making; thanks to my good friend Ellen Arian)
1 pint heavy cream or whipping cream
½ cup cold water
Cheese salt, optional
Let the cream set at room temperature (72 degrees) to ripen slightly.
Pour into one-quart canning jar with tight fitting lid and shake vigorously; or, put in a mixing bowl and mix on high speed (a paddle attachment, if you have one, works best for this task)
After 5-10 minutes when butter has formed, pour off the liquid buttermilk and spoon the solids into a bowl. (Save the buttermilk for fresh pancakes).
Add the water and press with the back of a spoon to expel more buttermilk. Pour off the excess liquid and discard and continue adding more cold liquid and expelling liquid until water runs clear (this takes 4-5 washes).
Add salt to taste, if desired. Keep in refrigerator for up to one week.
Yield: 8 ounces
Mary Enig’s Blend of Oils for Best Cooking Results and Stability
1/3 coconut oil (for stability and for antimicrobial lauric acid)
1/3 sesame oil (for sesamin, a powerful antioxidant; protects other oils from high heat)
1/3 olive oil
Blend and keep small portion out for ready use. Refrigerate rest. Proportions, with the actual amounts left to you.
Copyright 2008 Pathways4Health.
- Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, p. 42. [↩]
- Enig and Fallon [↩]
- Lipitor advertising disclaimer. [↩]
- Sally Fallon and Marg Enig, Dangers of Statin Drugs. [↩]
- Dr. Joseph Mercola says, “Among the more than 20,000 patients who have come to my clinic, only four or five of them truly needed these drugs…due to genetic challenges that required it,” 2008 Mercola web site [↩]
- Annemarie Colbin, Cholesterol: Is It Really So Bad? [↩]
- Honolulu Heart Program, 2001. [↩]
- Joseph Mercola, website, 2008 [↩]
- Enig [↩]
- Enig [↩]
- The biochemical quality of fats from grass-fed animals is far superior to that of today’s mass-produced, feed-lot, grain-fed animals. Feeding grain to cattle whose systems are made to eat grass changes the fatty acid profile: the meat lacks omega oils and other phytonutrients associated with grass, and it is more inflammatory and embodies a greater amount of stress hormones…Dr. Peter Bongiorno, 1.27.08; NGI. [↩]
- Based on Mary Enig’s, Know Your Fats. [↩]
- Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, p. 23. [↩]
- Enig and Fallon, p. 35. [↩]
- Enig and Fallon, p. 28.. (Perhaps this is the result of cholesterol-lowering drugs. This same phenomenon is currently reflected in recent news articles questioning some of the recently-introduced cholesterol drugs that appear to have no constructive impact of death rates of recipients.) [↩]
- Enig and Fallon. [↩]
- Enig and Fallon, p. 30 [↩]
- See Fallon and Enig’s Dangers of Statin Drugs for complete discussion. [↩]
- Paul Pitchford, p. 181. [↩]
- Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, p. 13. [↩]
- Joseph Mercola, M.D., speech to IIN, May, 2007. [↩]
- Fallon and Enig [↩]
- Enig, p. 56. [↩]
- Fallon and Enig, p. 24 [↩]
- Based on Fallon and Enig, “A Better Way” [↩]
- Based on work by Mary Enig. [↩]
- Fallon, p. 15. [↩]