Scapegoats, saints, and saturated fats: old mistakes in new directions.
A recent commentary piece in the British Medical Journal suggests that saturated fat is not really so bad after all. Is the author right? Is it time to absolve saturated fat? Not at all says Dr David Katz pointing out that it was never time to demonize it in the first place. ‘We vilified saturated fat, and were almost certainly silly to do so. Now, some seem on a mission to canonize it – and that is at least as silly. Diets can be lower, or higher, in saturated fat content and be crummy either way. There is no evidence of long-term health benefit from the wilful addition to the diet of saturated fat.’ In this edited extract of his Huffington Post piece (reprinted with permission) David Katz lays out his case that we are ill-served to think of saturated fat as either scapegoat, or martyred saint.
‘Ancel Keys was never really wrong.The case against saturated fat, its implication in the development of atherosclerosis, inflammation, and chronic diseases, notably heart disease, involves a vast expanse of research over many years by thousands of researchers around the world. Keys was among the first to emphasize the association between saturated fat intake and heart disease. He looked at rates of disease around the world and correctly noted that heart disease was more common in societies that ate more meat and dairy. His mistake may have been to look past that dietary pattern for the “active ingredient” in it, which led to the convictions of dietary cholesterol, saturated fat, and to a lesser extent overall dietary fat.
Ancel Keys wasn’t entirely right. Saturated fat is not one food component; it’s a category. Just as polyunsaturated fats include the anti-inflammatory omega-3s, and the pro-inflammatory omega-6s (and even that is over simplified), so does the saturated fat class contain a diversity of members. One of them, stearic acid, found in dark chocolate among other places, is now clearly established to be innocuous. Another, lauric acid, predominant in coconut oil among other places, may prove to be as well. But still others, such as palmitic acid and myristic acid, appear to be substantially guilty as charged, contributing to inflammation and atherosclerosis. The body of relevant evidence is expansive.
What this means is that even if there are harms attached to some saturated fats, summary judgment against the whole clan was never valid. The combination of parsing and over-simplification invites the devils in the details to run amok. That clearly happened here. If we focus only on cutting saturated fat, we can find new ways to eat badly. We have, over the years, done exactly that. Of note, we can do the same when cutting carbs, or gluten, or fructose, or sugar, or meat, or grains, or salt, or wheat, too. Diet never was, and never will be, a single ingredient enterprise. The whole recipe matters.
Demonizing saturated fat never helped us much. Canonizing it now won’t help us any either. All who share a concern for eating well and the health advances that can come from it must band together to renounce the perennial branding of this, that, or the other food component as scapegoat, or saint. It is, and always was, the big picture – the overall dietary pattern, and for that matter lifestyle pattern that matters. We could cut saturated fat and eat better, or worse, depending on what we eat instead.
A bounty of science along with an application of sense points very reliably to variations on the theme of optimal eating for Homo sapiens. We could all get there from here, and by so doing, add years to life, add life to years, and love food that loves us back. None of this will happen though if we replace the follies of history with old mistakes in new directions.’
– David Katz’ latest book, Disease-Proof: The remarkable truth about what makes us well is available at bookstores throughout the US and Canada and online HERE.
Dr Alan Barclay says: “While it is wise to reduce the amount of saturated fat you consume, what you replace it with is vitally important. Either unsaturated fats or low GI carbohydrates are the best choice. To ensure the right balance of fats consumed, we recommend that for every gram of saturated fat you consume you eat 2 g of unsaturated fat (like those found in extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, etc.), or in other words, your saturated fat : unsaturated fat ratio is less than 0.33. To help you achieve this, we are now including saturated: unsaturated fat ratios in all of the recipes published in GI News”.
Is the origin of type 1 diabetes in the gut?
An in depth review by Outi Vaarala (Immune Response Unit, Department of Vaccination and Immune Protection, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland) published in Current Diabetes Reports looks at the role of the intestinal microbiota in type 1 diabetes. Here’s the Abstract:
‘The role of intestinal microbiota in immune-mediated diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, has deservedly received a lot of attention. Evidently, changes in the intestinal microbiota are associated with type 1 diabetes as demonstrated by recent studies. Children with beta-cell autoimmunity have shown low abundance of butyrate-producing bacteria and increase in the abundance of members of the Bacteroidetes phylum in fecal microbiota. These alterations could explain increased gut permeability, subclinical small intestinal inflammation, and dysregulation of oral tolerance in type 1 diabetes. However, these studies do not provide evidence of the causative role of the gut microbiota in the development of beta-cell autoimmunity, yet. In animal models, the composition of gut microbiota modulates the function of both innate and adaptive immunity, and intestinal bacteria are regulators of autoimmune diabetes. Thus, prevention of type 1 diabetes could, in the future, be based on the interventions targeted to the gut microbiota.’
The Bread And Butter Project.
Bourke Street Bakery co-owner Paul Allam was inspired to set up The Bread And Butter Project following a trip to Mae Sot on the Thai-Burmese border, where at the invitation of a local orphanage, he taught a group of Karen refugee women how to bake bread and helped establish a social business to support these women and the orphanage.
Back home, Paul along with his business partner and friend, David McGuinness, have used their baking skills and community spirit to set up a social enterprise bakery to empower the disadvantaged in Sydney – the current trainees are all refugees. If you live in Sydney, here’s where you can buy their sourdough bread.
Philippa’s cookbook shelf.
#1 The Gentle Art of Preserving (Kyle Books): I picked this up because it has a whole chapter on fermenting including making water kefir, creamy yoghurt and labne (strained yoghurt). I was also curious to read what they said about preserving plums because when I was growing up we had four plum trees and my mother’s summer days were busy bottling plums and making jam and chutney. And although I would help her, I realised too late that I didn’t have her recipes. This book is a collection of Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi’s favourites including Italian cured charcuterie, jams and chutneys, pickling, fermenting, freezing and pressure canning.
#2 Smashing Plates (Kyle Books): I have always loved Greece and Greek food. A tag line ‘Greek flavours redefined’ was irresistible. What would Maria Elia do with traditional slow-roasted lamb (she marinates it with lemons, dill, cinnamon and cumin, wraps in paper and roasts for four hours). How easy is that? But it’s her salads and sides that will be crowd pleasers for GI News readers and her deliciously simple ways to up the veggie intake – Carrot Tabbouleh, a choice of Potato, Parsnip or Pomegranate Skordalia, Broad Beans and Mint Houmous, Lemon and Dill Braised Broad Beans, White Bean, Artichoke and Basil Houmous, Lemon and Oregano Roasted Tomatoes with Kefalotyri (or Pecorino) and Tomato Bulgar Pilau.