April 23

The Bad Fat Brothers

7  comments

bad-fats-brothers.jpg
What if you were terrified of having rats in your house, so you brought in a snake to get rid of them. Unbeknown to you, the snake happened to be pregnant, and next thing you knew, you were overrun with snakes, which you found more frightening than the rats. You took steps to start getting rid of the snakes, but then here came the rats back in full force. Now you want to get rid of both of them.
This is the situation the American Heart Association (AHA) and other saturated-fat phobic groups find themselves in with trans fats and saturated fats. They campaigned relentlessly to scare people away from saturated fats, and all the restaurants and food manufacturers complied by switching to trans fats. Then the AHA and friends realized that trans fats were worse than saturated fats, so they mobilized to get them banned.
Before they were through patting one another on the back for a job well done, it dawned on them that if restaurants and food processors couldn’t use trans fats, they would all go back to saturated fats. Why? Because there are cooking properties that only saturated fats and trans fats have. If you can’t use one, you’ve got to use the other.
Now the AHA has started anew its anti-saturated fat message, but this time including trans fats. They call these two the bad fat brothers, Tran and Sat, and have created an animated program to demonize both of them. (Click here to view.) And, they’ve even resorted to the old clogging-your-arteries imagery even though by now anyone with any sense knows that’s not how coronary heart disease works.
Problem is that it isn’t going to work. Many foods don’t taste right if they’re not prepared with either trans fats or saturated fats. McDonald’s French fries, for example. McDonald’s – at least to this point – has opted to stick with the trans fat instead of going back to beef tallow because they want the fries to taste like McDonald’s fries. If they used peanut oil to fry them in, they wouldn’t be the same.
As you might imagine, I find the whole thing idiotic. There is no evidence that saturated fat does squat to us healthwise, other than maybe make us a little healthier. Saturated fat raises HDL levels and lowers the level of Lp(a) [pronounced L P little a], which is a putative risk factor for heart disease.
If we eat too many carbohydrates, our bodies convert the excess to palmitic acid, a 16-carbon chain saturated fat, which happens to be the exact fat that ‘experts’ deem the most ‘dangerous’ in that it raises LDL levels the most. We’re always encouraged by these types to avoid foods rich in palmitic acid, yet palmitic acid is the very fat our own bodies produce when our won bodies make fat. Let’s give nature a little credit. Do you suppose that our bodies were molded through eons of natural selection to crank out a fat that is dangerous to us when the same forces could just as easily have designed us to produce stearic acid (an 18-carbon chain saturated fat that has been shown to lower cholesterol levels) or even an omega-3 fat? The name of the natural selection game is survival, not suicide.
The AHA breathed life into the saturated fat monster and is now haunted by it. And I am having a great time watching them try to wriggle out of the mess they needn’t have created to begin with.
The first thing they should do is kill off Sat, preferably by some disorder caused by an immune system failure secondary to not enough saturated fat in his diet. Then concentrate their efforts on getting rid of Trans and replacing him by a superhero called Sat Man. Don’t hold your breathe, though.
(Hat tip for putting me on to this: Cindy Moore)


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  1. There was a danish study some months ago
    that showed that transfatty contents in
    McDonalds food varied wildly between
    countries.
    From http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/16/opinion/16teicholz.html?ex=1177560000&en=e1a5bb34fd75f57a&ei=5070
    “Consuming that much trans fat is far
    too easy. The Danish study found that a
    large order of McDonald’s French fries
    in the United States contains almost six
    grams of trans fats, while a large
    portion (10 pieces) of Chicken McNuggets
    serves up almost four grams. Eaten
    together, they deliver nearly 10 grams
    of a substance considered so unhealthy
    that the National Academy of Sciences
    concluded, in 2002, that the only safe
    amount of trans fats in the diet is
    zero.
    In Denmark, that same combination of
    McDonald’s fries and chicken contains
    less than one gram of trans fats. That
    is because, since 2004, the Danes have
    limited trans fats to no more than 2
    percent of a food’s fat content, by
    weight. Now, even the famous Danish
    pastry is virtually free of trans fats.”
    Hi Vagn–
    I’m sure it’s full of the same saturated fats it was full of before the switch to trans fats.  It’s impossible to make good, flaky pastry without either saturated or trans fats.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  2. Dr Mike:
    You and I and a few others may know about fats, but 99.9% of people where I am still live in fat-phobia hell-land. One of our doctoral students had to have emergency heart surgery due to blockages to his heart (he’s under 40 years of age). When we asked for his dietary restrictions for our staff retreat, he listed pork, shellfish, dairy, eggs as restrictions. He’s following his cardiologist’s orders and the Canadian Heart & Stroke Association’s recommendations. His cardiologist works out of one of Canada’s most prestigious University Hospitals. I work on a University campus. I hear this daily: “this is good, I made it myself and it contains no fat at all”
    Progress and enlightenment regarding fat? I don’t think so.
    Hi Hellistile–
    We’re still in the pre-enlightenment days as far as fat is concerned, but things are changing.  The amount of research accumulating will soon be hard to ignore, although many will try.  We’ve just got to keep fighting the good fight.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  3. Oh, brother. I do love how they have Tran wielding a toothpick. It makes him look a tad more unsavory than Sat. But never fear, Sat is clearly the glutton of the two with his napkin tied around his neck and his fork readily in hand.

  4. Hi Doctor Eades
    I hope its ok to string some questions together that do not relate to the blogg. I’ve been wanting to ask for a while:
    1. Here (in AUS) we have 2 diet companies that seem to have a good program – carb controlled although still a bit higher that PP (Sureslim & Doctor Cohens). You only eat 3 times per day with 5 hours between. No snacking between meals. The reason they say is that this encourages the production of seratonin & HGH. Whats your take on this?
    2. To confuse things, other diets say “don’t go hungry – if you get (real)hunger your metabolism will slow down as body thinks its starving or “you must eat 5 to 6 times a day to keep your metabolism going”. What your take on this?
    3. I’ve just read SLOW BURN & have started. But I have weight to lose & I keep feeling that I should do activity on other days just to burn more calories? This brings me to THE BIGGEST LOSER. They exercise 5-6 hours per day & are losing heaps (often 4 kgs plus per week)
    4. I play sport (field hockey). All coaches say warm up & stretch before playing. Now in SLOW BURN you say stretching is not that good. How do you avoid injuries? just by warming up slowly or what? (I pulled a calf muscle a few weeks ago – it was in the second game so I was warm – but what did the physio prescribe for healing – stretching!
    soooooo many questions! thanks
    Lynne
    Hi Lynne–
    1. I’m not familiar with the diets you mentioned. I, myself, am not a big fan of snacking, but for reasons having nothing to do with serotonin and/or HGH. In fact, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want your serotonin to be increased–it improves mode and reduces hunger. I like to avoid snacking to let the liver do its thing and clear itself of fat.
    2. All the business about eating all the time to keep your metabolism up is, in my opinion, nonsense. Your metabolism is a function of your body weight and composition, not of how often you eat. Certain foods do indeed contribute to your total metabolic rate, but it doesn’t really matter whether they are eaten throughout the day or over several meals.
    3. You can do other things to burn calories if weight loss is your goal. What we wrote in Slow Burn was that the benefit of exercise come from the increased strength. If you want to increase strength, then resistance exercise is by far the best way. And, in my opinion, Slow Burn is the best way to do resistance exercise. If what you’re wanting to do is simply burn calories, then, by all means, work out 6 hours per day.
    4. In Slow Burn we wrote that OVERstretching was not good. Many people try to increase their flexibility by stretching their joints beyond the point to which they should be stretched. They achieve an increase in joint flexibility, but at the expense of a less stable joint. Doing mild stretches to warm up is totally different. I don’t particularly think they help, but they don’t over flex the joints causing joint-capsule looseness.
    Hope this helps.
    MRE

  5. Hi Mike. This cartoon by the AHA is a hoot -and SCARY as all hell.
    Here’s the challenge for you, Dr. Kendrick, the Atkins foundation, Dr. Cordain (he’ll come around soon), etc.: Make your own version of this cartoon with the correct information on fats, protein, carbs and make educated fun of the AHA, ADA, NIH, etc. pointing out the glaring inconsistencies and downright lies that these orgs are disseminating and the damage they perpetrate.
    Counter-propaganda is called for in these desperate times! If not, we’ll see Statin Water on the menu at restaurants and the word ‘steak’ will be stricken from the English language.
    You and others have the power. Count me in as infantry.
    Hi Fred–
    I and others may have the intellectual power, but we don’t have the funding.  The AHA is awash in money, and the several hundred thousand dollars required to write, animate, and produce the Bad Fat Brothers cartoon is a drop in the bucket for them.  Not so with Cordain, Kendrick, MD and me.  We’re any of us to have control over even a fraction of the funds that the AHA has, we could wreak some real havoc.  Until then, I’m afraid all we have are our books, blogs and the knowledge that we are in the right.  Doesn’t sound like much, but, remember, with Goliath bearing down on him, all David had was a slingshot. 
    Cheers–
    MRE 

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