Thursday, February 2, 2012

More Random Thoughts....

Another day, another mainstream article drawing odd conclusions and quotes from 'experts' responding to the latest findings from recent studies. This one comes from a study published in the British Medical Journal, which was used as the basis for this article from Yahoo. The study authors concluded that...

"In Spain, a Mediterranean country where olive or sunflower oil is used for frying, the consumption of fried foods was not associated with coronary heart disease or with all cause mortality."

 The Yahoo article goes on to state...
"A new study has found that there is no direct correlation between the amount of fried food people eat and their risk of heart disease. Instead, the research found that long-term heart risk depended more on what kind of oil was used in the cooking process — olive oil and sunflower oil are considered the healthiest."

Additionally,  Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, was quoted as saying..
"We currently recommend swapping saturated fats like butter, lard or palm oil for unsaturated fats as a way of keeping your cholesterol down and this study gives further cause to make that switch..."

Huh? Where in the study does it give that further cause? Did she read it? The only conclusion that can be drawn is, as the authors stated:
"In a Mediterranean country where olive and sunflower oils are the most commonly used fats for frying, and where large amounts of fried foods are consumed both at and away from home, no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death."

There is no mention of saturated fats, butter, lard, and/or palm oil ANYWHERE in the study. But of course you have to read it to know that. And tell me, where in the US do they still cook with butter, or even more rare, lard?* We haven't cooked with either consistently since the 1950's, yet our rates of heart disease and everything else under the sun continue to climb. And still, the 'experts' continue to suggest butter is the problem. Huh? The Yahoo article also incorrectly states that re-used oils contain higher levels of saturated fats. They contain higher levels of transfats due to oxidation, not saturated.

Experts are always confused by anomalies such as the so-called French Paradox, where another country can eat more fat(even saturated!), carbs, or insert random vilified food of the decade here, than the US yet have lower rates of heart disease and various other illnesses. I've maintained for a while now that it comes down to the quality of the food source. The Telegraph seems to agree...
"They say there is mounting research that it is the type of oil used, and whether or not it has been used before, that really matters."

Ah, the type and whether it has been re-used. As I mentioned, the US hasn't cooked with butter or lard since the 1950's. So what do we use? Vegetable oils and shortening for the most part. How many of us held a fast food job as a kid? Mine was Burger King. How often was that fryer oil changed? Yeah. Yuck. Think that might be part of the problem?

There is some evidence that the problem with the oils/fats predominantly used in the US in their high Omega-6 content. Everyone by now has heard all of the miraculous benefits(cardiovascular being one of them) of supplementing with fish oil due to it's Omega-3 content. The hypothesis growing steam is that it is because of a re-balanced ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. Indeed, you can get a better balance of omega-6 to omega-3 by increasing your omega-3 intake supplementing with fish oil.

Can anyone think of another way to re-balance the two?

How about consume less omega-6 in the first place?

Nobody ever seems to suggest this. I wonder if it's because the supplement companies wouldn't make as much money having people buy stuff they really don't need? For more on the omega-6 issue as well as omega-6 content of common foods, click here. Notice a lot of the things the 'experts' say to avoid contain the lowest amount of omega-6? The stuff we haven't cooked with in decades. Hmmmm.

The take home message is focus on the quality of the food you are eating, whether they be fats, proteins, or carbs. Yes, on the surface these higher quality foods seem more expensive, but that short-sighted thinking will cost you plenty down the road in the form of increased doctor visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, and co-pays to manage all of your avoidable and preventable ailments!

Hell, forget the health benefits, quality food just tastes better.

* When requesting meals to be cooked in butter at various popular restaurants in cities such as Pittsburgh, Boston, and San Diego, the following are a sampling of the responses to my request:

"...he said he can't do it because it will stick the pan."

This was for a pancake fyi. And we wonder why we are so unhealthy in this country. No one knows how to cook anymore. I think a baby chef in France just died.

"huh? we don't have butter."

This was for an omelet. My plate was then presented with a few containers of butter to put on my bread. I guess they just had the special kind of butter than can only be put on bread.

Essentially, asking for butter seems akin to asking people to do calculus these days.

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