When I saw that front cover, I thought 'about time' (pun intended). From that article a cascade of media followed. The information that fat was good, especially saturated fat was on major television shows around the globe, social media was a buzz and debate began in earnest.
Since I’ve been working with Dr Steve Myers on the Changing Habits education course, it has become very clear that in the scientific community there is always a division of theories and results. Some science articles will say saturated fats are bad, while others will show the many benefits of it. Then there is the debate on polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, omega 3, omega 6, EFA, EPA, GAMA and cholesterol.
To understand this division of camps, I think that history is a great place to start.
It all began in the 1920s, when the company Procter and Gamble (originally soap and candle makers) required a fat that never went off, as one of the major ingredients in soap and candles. Science came to the party and the hydrogenation of vegetable oil (an otherwise liquid at room temperature now became a solid) created such a fat. The oil that was used, such as cotton seed oil was an industrial fat and not used for human consumption in the 1920s.
When candles were no longer needed, they began to use this new technology on food. There was no testing done on animals and humans for its safety. Crisco Shortening was the result and then with the invention of partial hydrogenation, margarine had found a new home. It was seen as a cleaner (some controversy about animal fat around this time) fat and cheaper than animal fats.
Then, in 1961 Ancel Keys hit the front cover of Time Magazine - he was known as the father of low fat. He convinced through his theory and cherry picked research that fat was the culprit to the growing heart disease rate in the US. There was another camp lead by John Yudkin that had a theory that sugar was the culprit behind heart disease. But as history would go, we know who won that battle. Fat became the number one enemy and margarine, vegetable oils and 11 serves of whole grains became the fat and food of choice to prevent heart disease.
Not only did saturated fats become public enemy number one, so did cholesterol and in 1984 on the front cover of Time Magazine, “Cholesterol - And Now the Bad News….”, soon turned to in 1999 “Cholesterol - And Now the Good News….”.
It’s now 2014 and the cracks and rumblings of the heart fat hypothesis have been rumbling for quite some time. More and more people, scientists, doctors and nutritionists (including myself) have been talking about the flaws in this theory, some of us for 30 years. In fact, in 1978 Dr Mary Enig, a nutritionist I followed in my early years as a nutritionist was talking about the dangers of trans fats which were created during the process of partial hydrogenation of a vegetable oil (margarine).
Many people who spoke out about margarine were seen as charlatans. In fact, as a columnist in 1991 I wrote about the dangers of margarine in our local paper, the Sunshine Coast Daily who was then threatened by the makers of margarine with a law suit if they did not write a retraction. I refused to retract what I said, so to appease the makers of margarine, the editor did a whole page spread advertising the benefits of margarine.
Thought leaders in health and nutrition are usually people who are not wilfully blind to the facts and whistle blow their findings. For me, it was about my philosophy as to who I trusted in the scientific community. I wasn’t a scientist, I was a nutritionist.
My father always said; ‘If you don’t stand for something you will fall for everything”. I stood for evolutionary eating, knowing that our bodies have evolved with food over thousands of years and the food our ancestors ate was a good predictor on what we should eat.
The Australian Heart Foundation which began in the 1950s took another view. They believed that saturated fats were bad and polyunsaturated in the form of margarine were better. Their heart tick of approval sealed their fate. By 2009, the front covers of major newspapers around Australia and the world were broadcasting the fact that trans fats were public enemy number one, even over saturated fats.
The Australian Heart Foundation had been giving their tick of approval to trans fats for decades and now they had to make changes, but without losing face. And they did. But instead of taking the tick away from margarine, the formulation changed and the industrial process of interesterification which included hydrogenation was the result. Yes, they got rid of the trans fats but in place of them, a new fat was created called interesterified fat (not ever found in nature, only formed by chemical procedures). They continue to give their tick to this food to this very day, without the long term effects of this fat being known.
There is still a polarisation on saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, but I like to think that both these fats are important. In evolutionary terms, we were more likely to eat saturated fat in the summer when animals had more fat on them and less in the winter when they were leaner. As for polyunsaturated fats which have their routes in nuts and seeds, these were winter foods that could be stored and carried into the spring and summer months. So both fats are important for our health.
We’ve been taken for a ride and as a result, many people have suffered needlessly with not only heart disease, but diabetes, cancer, autoimmunity and many other physical and mental disorders. The tide is turning, nature-based evolutionary fats are making a comeback and I couldn’t be more happy.
Chemical-based fats to avoid: margarine and any processed fat that looks like margarine but may be called by another name like vegetable oil, vegetable fat, vegetable shortening, cotton seed oil, canola oil, grape seed oil, rice bran oil or any refined oil where solvents are required to extract the fat from the product. I would also avoid any oil that may be genetically modified like soy oil or corn oil.
Nature-based fats include: all nut and seed oils where you know their origin and are cold pressed not solvent extracted, all nuts and seeds, avocados, meat, cold water fish, poultry, tallow, lard, butter, ghee, cream, soft cheeses and hard cheeses traditionally made.
There will be many trends that come and go. Become informed; don’t be swayed by popular media. Find a philosophy that fits with your lifestyle and listen to your body's many signs and symptoms as to whether the diet protocol you have chosen is working for you.
At Changing Habits, we teach how to become a ‘bio hacker’ - someone who begins to learn what works for their body and their lifestyle by firstly becoming educated and secondly, by trial and error guided by tried and tested protocols. This is a great start to bring health and energy back in to your life and that of your family.