Fourth Food & Health Group Meeting – Fats

Our fourth meeting was perhaps the most important we have held so far. Dietary fats, especially saturated fats, have had such bad press for decades that the public perception towards them is an immediate, almost visceral repulsion. Just about everyone will tell you, as if it were Gods own truth, that fat makes you fat, clogs your arteries and is known to be unhealthy. To many this self-evident zeitgeist cannot be challenged. Fat has become a swear word.

You would be forgiven for thinking that the science of fat in relation to health were settled. We all eat too much fat. We’re told so all the time. Yet the science tells quite a different picture. Fat, it turns out, is a large, complex and controversial area of research. But over the last decade or so the health promoting aspects of fats has become increasingly evident. Many of the theories about cholesterol and saturated fat have been refined and qualified, to the point where the about turn is almost complete.

The evidence from multiple reviews and meta-analyses is now compelling: carbohydrates, not fats, are at the root of many of the degenerative diseases that plague us in the modern world. (Look out for our next presentation for a further analysis of these troublesome carbohydrates).

Part 1 – Busting the myths
In the first part of our presentation we looked at some of the common myths about fats and countered them with quotations from recent scientific papers on the subject. We show that the position most people occupy, including most medics, is at odds with the real world, and research evidence:

Part 2 – A different perspective on fats
In the second part we looked at the overlooked role of fat in the diet of herbivores. They are not absorbing the glucose as assumed, but converting it through fermentation to short chain fatty acids and absorbing these as their primary energy source. We also consider the anthropological data on the importance of fat in hunter-gatherer diets which provides strong evidence that we evolved on a diet high in animal fats and that fat is therefore, a fundamentally positive parts of our diet today too:

Part 3 – Understanding the basic physiology
Now we take you through the physiology of how the body can either run on carbohydrates/glucose, or on fats as their energy source. We walk you through the hormonal effects and triggers, and how the energy is apportioned, especially the all-important brain, and how the tissues respond. Take your time with each slide, there is lots of clear information here and everyone will be able to understand it. We end by showing how a state of ketosis works for the brain, as well as all other tissues, and one can see how this evolved over millenia through repeated experiences of famine, brought about through any number of reasons:

Part 4 – The ketogenic diet
The expansion in knowledge and use of the ketogenic diet is revealed here in all it’s exciting glory. Does its use know no bounds? Let’s see. We show how the world of elite sports physiology is moving rapidly away from the old ‘carb loading’ approach that has dominated for the past 50 or more years. (Hat tip to Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney for their tireless work over the past 20 years, which is now bearing fruit). We go on to show the explosion in research in treating a huge range of horrible medical conditions with a ketogenic diet with outstanding results:

Part 5 – Dietary fats – the good the bad and the ugly
Now we reach the nitty-gritty and talk you through the differences between the various fats; what makes a saturate, a monounsaturate and the different polyunsaturated fatty acids. And we bring you right up to date with some of the most recent thoughts about the population-wide advice that most people succumbed to, but that was wrong. Take your time looking at each slide and as there is quite a lot of detail here.

DEMONSTRATION – Making and using healthful fats with Caroline Spear

Caroline_making_mayoWe had yet another wonderful demonstration by Caroline. At the beginning of today’s talk she put in a brief appearance during which she handed round a sealed bag of pig fat, fresh from the butchers. She then proceeded to cut it into smallish pieces before placing them in a cast iron casserole dish and then setting it to slowly render on the stove in the adjacent kitchenette. By the time Keir and I had finished our marathon five-part lecture and we’d all had a cup of tea and looked at the books and shared our experiences of adjusting our diets according to all this wonderful research, Caroline was ready to show us her home rendered lard. It was clear, light and beautiful, and everyone enjoyed nibbling on the resultant pork scratchings left in the sieve (once they were cool). She went on to show us how to make our own ghee, aka clarified butter. Caroline_rendering_lardThis is an age-old technique for extending the life of butter by slowly melting it, letting all the proteins and water sink to the bottom and pouring off the golden butter oil. This can be heated to greater temperatures than can butter, without burning, and is now free of milk proteins, to which some people have an allergic reaction.

Finally, we saw her blithely create a perfect mayonnaise using extra-virgin unfiltered organic olive oil, fresh egg yolks and a dash of cider vinegar. Fantastic. It is important to use a home-made mayonnaise as virtually all commercial versions use sunflower oil which, as we previously showed, is particularly high in those inflammatory omega 6 polyunsaturated oils, which most people already have too much of.

One of my friends rendered this silky-smooth lard for me. It may look like honey – but it is far more nutritious! Delicious for roasting and frying.

One of my friends rendered this silky-smooth lard for me. It may look like honey – but it is far more nutritious! Delicious for roasting and frying.

Further reading:

One thought on “Fourth Food & Health Group Meeting – Fats

  1. Great post. I am proud to say that I have been rendering my own lard and lamb fat since going paleo. I was lucky that being originally from Italy I was used to this type of food preparation from scratch and enjoy the preparations. My fridge is a proud collection of glass jar each containing the healthy home rendered fat!
    I only use animal fats for cooking now I even ask my butcher to save lamb kidney fat for me as this is wonderful for cooking with especially offal. I must say I eat everything from the lamb. Just had some lamb’s tongues reserved for me especially. Beef tongues is also absolutely delicious.
    Not sure what has happened to us humans but we seem to have lost all our instincts and have suffered a major amnesia of what is really food for us. Prof John Yudkin in his book Pure White and Deadly points out that we humans seems to enjoy tinkering with nature and separating palatability from nutrition. Just because we can we’d rather have palatability only and worry about nutrition later… BIG mistake and we are really paying the price for it now. Thanks again for a very informative post.
    Laura

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