American Society For Nutrition

Fatty Fat Fat

Fatty Fat Fat

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
Posted on 10/13/2009 at 05:59:07 PM by Student Blogger
By Matt T.

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I took a bite of that deep fried Snickers bar, but I didn't swallow.

OK fine. That's a bold faced lie.

And I'd do it again!

As I was enjoying this and other fried delicacies at the state fair (I heard they added ‘food-on-a-stick' as its own level of the food pyramid in the Deep South…), my mind  turned to the controversial topic of dietary fat. Exactly how many minutes sooner would I die as a result of this deep-fried slice of heaven? Would I still believe it was worth it as my heart squeezed out its last beat? Was powdered sugar and raspberry syrup really necessary on a deep fried Snickers bar?

I was amused if not relieved by the proud advertisement hung from the window of the vendor of this delectable nutritional crime against humanity:

“MADE WITH NO TRANS FAT”

Though I found the subtle application of a health claim to a deep fried Snickers bar amusing, the little yellow sign raised an interesting point. Candy bar innards notwithstanding, if we believe recent high profile epidemiological evidence (eg, Jakobsen et al), then the plant oils used to fry this puppy really might be good for me.

Now hold on, simmer down and step back down off those soap boxes. I am NOT actually suggesting a deep fried Snickers bar is health food. On questioning my nutritional conscience, “What would Walter Willett do?” (WWWWD for short, unless you pronounce ‘double u' four times, then it's actually longer…) I was promptly forced to acknowledge there were other problems with this fair fare.

All that aside, let's focus on the fat.

The tide of public health messaging is shifting from “fat = bad,” to, “saturated & trans fat = bad; unsaturated fat = good” Part of this counter-current has been criticism of some of Ancel Keys' early research. The argument usually goes something like this: Keys showed fat intakes strongly predict cardiovascular death rates in several countries. Data for other countries were available, but left out. If we add data for these countries, the trend is softened. In short, Keys “cherry picked” his countries.

After reading what Keys said about his own data, this is how I think he might respond: Adding more countries brings in different economies, medical establishments and leading causes of death. Fat intakes are high and cardiovascular deaths low in several regions where infectious diseases were primary causes of death, but to include these would be irresponsible epidemiology. Keys hand picked his countries for a fair comparison.

I was surprised that even 60 years ago Keys was teaching that polyunsaturated fat decreased serum cholesterol, that dietary cholesterol had very little effect on serum cholesterol and that the human-equivalent dose of dietary cholesterol inducing atherosclerosis in rabbits was far above what may be reasonably consumed by free living individuals. Some of these were concepts I had been given to understand were correct, but only recently resolved.

I cite here only one Keys review paper, a quick read for anyone interested in what he did and did not preach. The paper embodies what I believe was his core message: cut superfluous added fats out of the diet, but keep nutritious fats as part of a varied diet.

Whether we should target fats globally, of course, is  a debate in progress, and requires sorting out fat's influences on the related but not identical issues of obesity and cardiovascular risk. In the meantime, I'll try to keep the deep fried candy bars down to once a year.


5 Comments
Posted Oct 14, 2009 3:41 PM by Lewis Samuel
This blog was amusing and I loved reading it! Keep up the great work...

Posted Oct 21, 2009 2:30 PM by Gary Spinner
Thanks for a fun entry. I don't think eating, in rare instances, foods such as fried Twinkies or corn dogs will take minutes off our lives. We need to embrace all things in moderation. Some of us eat trans fats knowing their dangers, and we're ok with that.

Posted Nov 15, 2009 8:59 PM by Emily
What's your opinion of the recent research linking high carbohydrate intake to increased lipid levels? (i.e. Jeff Volek at UConn, etc)
Do you think that a low fat diet is the answer to reducing risk of CVD or that this will change in the future?

these trans fatty acids is basically a molecule that has its head on backwards. For your arteries trans fats are as bad or even worse than saturated fats. many studies show that trans fats raise cholesterol levels in the blood. Current label laws in the US do not require food manufactures to include information about trans fats in nutrition labeling. If you really want to be healthy the only way to do that is to give your body fruits and vegetables. The US now is looking about obesity levels that are unheard of, 1 in 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes.
Children at the age of 3 have fatty deposits in their arteries (Bogalusa Heart Study)
By the age of 12, 70% of all American children have developed beginning stages of hardening of the arteries (Bogalusa Heart Study). this is all because of horrible the horrible diets children have. This diet carries onto their adult life and as adults their body is acidic and cancer thrives on acidic bodies. 150 scientists, 4500 research studies on nutrition and cancer. Conclusion: Fruits and vegetables and grains CAN prevent cancer. 3-4 million cases of cancer can be prevented annually. The way I get my fruits and vegetables is from a product called juice plus+. If you would like to learn more about the research backed by this product then check out my website Samantha4juiceplus.com

Posted Apr 13, 2010 3:46 PM by Matt T.

Emily, sorry for the late reply - didn't notice your comment until just now.

Most of my own research revolves around lean protein sources as an alternative to both fat and carbohydrate. At this time, I am fairly convinced that replacing fat with [refined] carbohydrate is a bad idea.

This is not news to anyone - I am constantly miffed at journalists who suggest that nutritionists contributed to current health problems by promoting high carb diets. I'm sorry, but even when we as a community were saying, "trim the fat," NOBODY was saying, "replace it with SUGAR!"

My interpretation of the best information available is that although saturated and trans fats are indeed to be avoided, other fats are probably beneficial, as long as the overall diet is not too high in calories.

I also am increasingly convinced that replacing some refined carbohydrate with lean protein sources is beneficial.

(In spite of this, I WILL be eating another deep fried Snickers bar at the state fair this year.) ;)