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I finally have a question! Can you read the link I just sent to your Mr. Cook-It's FB page (the question wouldn't let me post the link here) and tell me what you have learned/what you know about fats/good fats/bad fats. Should we really use lard instead of vegetable oils?! Have we been misled?

September 18, 2012
DISCLOSURE: this inquiry came from a friend who is a practicing RN at one of the Top 10 hospitals in the USA.

The link being discussed here is this: http://blog.grasslandbeef.com/bid/78272/The-American-Paradox-Why-You-Should-Eat-Lard

No reason to not put all the information out, right? Ok, so let's get to answering this question.

This writer is basically a girl with a website about nutrition. You're thinking… like Mr. Cook-It, right? Well, sort of. The only difference between she and I is I am over half of the way towards a master's education from one of the nation's leading universities in the field of nutrition, have been in the foodservice industry for 17 years, and am a dietetic intern at one of the best teaching hospitals for dietetics in the country. Again, no need to lie here. I also do not like bologna - the literal or rhetorical sense. This includes from my education and from this writer. And so I move forward.

In reading her own disclosure in the first near-page of this article, this says to me that the writer ate poorly. A vegetarian diet can be high in micro and macro nutrients, but it seems like she took the lazy way out. “My hair lacked luster and my skin was dull” are CLEAR signs of multiple micronutrient deficiencies. Why? Because she didn't eat those foods (which can be easily consumed in fruits and vegetables). “Grains had a place at nearly every meal” she continues. Well if one is carb loading, it is no wonder why one would be sluggish. I could go on.

As she uses her personal story to make a point, essentially she says that going back to a regular diet rich in healthy oils (and some unhealthy ones too) made her feel better and more “responsive to workouts.” Diets rich in protein are able to do this (personal anecdote: my friend is a marathon runner and is a vegetarian - go figure). Energy levels are sustained because protein helps carbohydrates last longer in the body, this is why it is recommended to eat a protein rich snack before bedtime for diabetics on basal insulin so they don't go all hypoglycemic while they sleep.

The truth is, saturated fats are strands of fats without any breaks along the structure. These breaks help the body break them down and use the goodness inside. CONSIDER- “healthy fats:” polyUNsaturated and monoUNsaturated fats. As we know the prefix “un” designates without, we can conclude that these structures have breaks. The body breaks them down easier, and this helps create HDL (a form of cholesterol known as “healthy fat”) to carry LDL (“bad fat”) away from the body. This is fact. Saturated fats are known to increase the size of LDL molecules. Also fact. Saturated fats are ones solid at room temperature (butter, lard, etc). Hm. Body temperature is around 98 degrees… not very far from room temperature, right? Imagine a stick of butter in your veins. If you think this would not cause cardiovascular disease (CVD) then YOU WOULD BE WRONG. This is what it is.

Returning to her article referencing the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (a source I consider reliable), this was a study done over the course of 8 years with a group of people less than 500,000. Was it significant? Sure. However, the Framingham Study followed people over the course of 40 years and concluded different results (that saturated fat does lead to CVD). Furthermore, this study concludes that DIETARY cholesterol is morely the culprit, not the cholesterol the body makes/uses (primarily to make bile).

A diet rich in HDL cholesterol (olive oil, avocado, etc) has been known to reduce LDL levels, which, as we previously discussed, physiologically lead to CVD. This also includes coconut oil (as HDL). Coconut is also a saturated fat. Confused? Welcome to the club. There is some overlap, so I am not saying the writer of the article is a complete nimrod. However, PROMOTING lard is not a wise idea - if saturated fat was good for you, then why would the leading cause of death be heart disease? Because of the all healthy fats in fast food, processed foods, and meat? Oh right, because all the unhealthy food people eat is LADEN with saturated fats, including lard and ghee (which is simply butter that has the milk and water removed).

When researching more information on this topic, I found that the following information might help in figuring out what to do with this semi-mixed information. In today's world of nutrition, the field is as new as medicine was when the stethoscope was invented. We are new, and developing studies is really easy to do. You can nearly prove anything. Red wine does this. More chocolate does that. Lard can do this. New studies are harder for me to read deeply into because they haven't been tested true yet. One that has been through the research gauntlet is one I tend to believe over a newer one. Think: “Celery causes cancer.” I digress. It takes a good researcher to find whatever is closest to the truth. On one of the leading publication search engines, PubMed/Medline, I typed “cardiovascular disease AND "saturated fat”“ which resulted in nearly 1200 hits. Two atherosclerosis articles discuss the detriments of animal/saturated fats on the body in the form of CVD. Search "american paradox” - the term mentioned in the article - 8 hits. Remember that bubble you could circle in middle school when a question asked something and the information wasn't in the reading? Well here goes.

Not enough information.

A few more points to cover. Pacific Island populations can not be compared to us simply because lifestyle is completely different. If you are on your feet sweating and moving all day, you could eat half of a cow a day and live to 85 (I may be exaggerating a little, but you get the drift). Also, following nutrition-based scientific research is difficult because you can't control what a person does, how they live, or what else they may consume - all of which have direct effects on the conclusions.

Is what the writer says about vegetable oil true? Sure. However, would eating lard daily give you clogged arteries faster than vegetable oil? Without a doubt. Also, vegetable oils usually are soybean based and are GMO - so I would steer clear of that anyway. As I have always said, go with “healthy fats” - mentioned all throughout this response - exercise, and until proven absolutely false - consume a balance diet moderate in lean meats and dairy. Makes sense and it is relatively simple. Till then, take articles like these as a grain of salt, giggle a little, and when in need, ask The Sage - you're trusted source for all things nutrition.

Happy Eating!

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