Today I finally posted a recipe page. Right now it’s got a few recipes on it, and I’ll continue to add to it as time goes on. But as I looked over the list, I realized that lard and animal fat are used in quite a few of them. Since this is a health blog, I figured that might surprise a lot of you, so I figured I should probably explain why I’m not scared of these healthy saturated fats that have sadly been blamed for the epidemic of heart disease in our country.
The Charge Against Saturated Fat
The demonization of saturated fat started in the 1960’s after Ancel Keys published his “Seven Countries Study”. This study examined the rates of heart disease and saturated fat intake for countries around the world, and made the bold proclamation that saturated fat found in animal products was largely responsible for the epidemic of cardiovascular disease. He had a nice chart that clearly showed the rising line of disease as saturated fat intake increased. It seemed pretty convincing, and we latched onto it wholeheartedly. The problem was that Keys actually studied 22 countries, not 7. He excluded the data from 15 of the 22 countries studied, a full 68% of his collected research, and only reported on the 7 countries that fit into his hypothesis that saturated fat lead to heart disease. What?? Does this seem like solid research to anyone else? Now granted, I’m not a research scientiest, but when nearly 70% of your data does not support your hypothesis, you’re not supposed to throw out that data and claim success. I’m pretty sure I would have received an F on my middle school science project if I tried to pull a stunt like that. You might be surprised to learn that Ancel Keys doesn’t even believe in the cholesterol hypothesis anymore. Here’s a quote from him back in 1997:
“There’s no connection whatsoever between the cholesterol in food and cholesterol in the blood. And we’ve known that all along. Cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter at all unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit.”
There have been lots of studies conducted over the years to try and support the cholesterol-heart disease hypothesis, and none of them have been able to do so. The Framingham heart study data showed that there was no correlation between dietary intake of cholesterol and rates of heart disease. In fact, the director even stated: “Serum cholesterol is not a strong risk factor for CHD, in the sense that blood pressure is a strong risk factor for stroke or cigarette smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer.”
Lots of other studies have all come up with the same results, and if you want you can read more about them here.
So, if the original hypothesis was flawed and the subsequent research hasn’t proven anything, why are we still hearing the same advice to cut saturated fat from our diets? This is where I might really lose some readers, but I’ll say it anyway: profit motive. You can’t patent beef tallow, duck fat, or butter, but you can patent crisco, margarine, and highly processed vegetable oils. Take a naturally occurring substance, change it, market it as a healthy option to naturally occurring fats, and all of a sudden you’ve created a huge demand for these “heart healthy” fats. Then create a drug to lower cholesterol levels and allegedly save you from dying of a heart attack, and you’ll have patients lining up at the door to be placed on lifelong medication that they believe will help them live longer, happier lives, but in fact, have only been proven to do so in a small subset of people.
What about common sense?
So what do you do? If the original research is flawed, the hypothesis hasn’t been proven over decades of research, and the whole thing is motivated by those who will profit from it, what advice do you follow? I say common sense. How long have humans been consuming processed vegetables oils? A few decades. When did our rates of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes start to skyrocket? Over the last few decades. How long have we been eating animal fats? Since the beginning of time. For me, this is where a bit of trust comes in. We’ll never know the perfect human diet because its different for every person depending on their genetics, their current life situation, and their ancestry. But I think its safe to say that the foods that have been provided for us in nature are much healthier and safer for us to consume than those that come out of a factory.
So what does cause heart disease, and what do you do to prevent it? I’ll be working on this one over the next couple weeks, so stay tuned. Check back on sunday for a very exciting giveaway that I’ve been working on for a while and am very excited to finally get to share with you!