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Saturated fats. The cause of heart disease or the answer to the problem?

Saturated fats, in the form of red meat have been with us since time immemorial. They have been a part of the human diet ever since we have been on the planet.

ischemic Heart Disease (IHD) on the other hand, has only been around since the 1940s or so (and is still increasing sharply) which, funnily enough, was when hydrogenated vegetable oils were introduced - coincidence? Not in the least.

After starting his medical carreer in the 1920s, Dr Weston Price, a leading proponent of natural nutrition, did not see his first case of IHD for 7 years. Nowadays, IHD is so common that it is the leading cause of death in the Western World and is, therefore, one of the main subjects at medical school, although it has been recognised as a problem for less than 100 years.

In that time, societies all around the World have been persauded (falsely) that saturated fat from red meat was responsible, and as a consequence a massive, thriving market has been built for vegetable oils, particularly hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are touted as being "safer" than their natural, saturated counterparts.

The truth is somewhat different.

Not suprisingly, the concept of the "dangers" of saturated fat were first pointed out by the vegetable oil industry, which had created hydrogenated fats in the 30s and 40s in an effort to stabilise their products to enable shipping over long distances. Other results of this action were the solidification of these oils, enabling them to be suggested as replacements for butter and animal fats such as lard, which had been in use for centuries, if not millenia.

Soon afterwards, a noticeable change in public health took place. IHD, which was virtually unheard of before the introduction of these oils appeared and was increasing at a alarming rate. Cancer, hitherto a rare condition affecting less than 1 in 50 individuals also began to increase (it now affects more than 1 in 3 people).

Incredibly, the vegetable oil industry was allowed to point the finger of blame at the old-fashioned saturated fats.

Immediately alarm bells rung.

Dr Ancel Keys reported that he believed that hydrogenated vegetable oils with their trans fatty acid components were responsible for the sudden and significant increase in ischemic heart disease over the previous decade. The response was predictable - the oil manufacturers buried the research and began the false attack on animal fats.

More recently in 1978, Dr Mary Enig, a clinical nutritionist at the University of Maryland discovered that, contrary to all the hype, the increased cancer rates were directly associated with total fat intake and vegetable fat intake but not with consumption of animal fat. Dr Enig has since spent the last 25 years warning of the dangers of trans fats and the relative safety of animal fats.

Predictably, the bulk of modern medicine has ignored, even ridiculed these (and other, corroborating) findings without considering the evidence. Until such entrenched, follish and, frankly, ignorant attitudes can be altered (don't hold your breath), the myths regarding the "dangers" of saturated fat and cholesterol will continure to be rehashed and repeated, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Back from saturated fat to fats

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