Posts Tagged ‘trans fats’

Make you Fink on Friday

This is about a subject that I have often espoused as ‘bullshit’.

8905112_origLiterally, the crap that we have been led to believe comes from manufacturers that want to sell you another product.

It’s the old butter vs margarine debate again; which is healthier for you?

Basically, you have been fed manufacturers crap for so long it’s taken as gospel.

Now it appears as though the truth is coming out.

Why almost everything you’ve been told about unhealthy foods is wrong

Eggs and red meat have both been on the nutritional hit list – but after a major study last week dismissed a link between fats and heart disease, is it time for a complete rethink?

The evidence that appears to implicate red meat does not separate well-reared, unprocessed meat from its factory farmed, heavily processed equivalent.’ Photograph: Mike Kemp/Getty Images/Rubberball

Could eating too much margarine be bad for your critical faculties? The “experts” who so confidently advised us to replace saturated fats, such as butter, with polyunsaturated spreads, people who presumably practise what they preach, have suddenly come over all uncertain and seem to be struggling through a mental fog to reformulate their script.

Last week it fell to a floundering professor, Jeremy Pearson, from the British Heart Foundation to explain why it still adheres to the nutrition establishment’s anti-saturated fat doctrine when evidence is stacking up to refute it. After examining 72 academic studies involving more than 600,000 participants, the study, funded by the foundation, found that saturated fat consumption was not associated with coronary disease risk. This assessment echoed a review in 2010 that concluded “there is no convincing evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease”.

Neither could the foundation’s research team find any evidence for the familiar assertion that trips off the tongue of margarine manufacturers and apostles of government health advice, that eating polyunsaturated fat offers heart protection. In fact, lead researcher Dr Rajiv Chowdhury spoke of the need for an urgent health check on the standard healthy eating script. “These are interesting results that potentially stimulate new lines of scientific inquiry and encourage careful reappraisal of our current nutritional guidelines,” he said.

Chowdhury went on to warn that replacing saturated fats with excess carbohydrates – such as white bread, white rice and potatoes – or with refined sugar and salts in processed foods, should be discouraged. Current healthy eating advice is to “base your meals on starchy foods”, so if you have been diligently following that dietetic gospel, then the professor’s advice is troubling.

Confused? Even borderline frustrated and beginning to run out of patience? So was the BBC presenter tasked with getting clarity from the British Heart Foundation. Yes, Pearson conceded, “there is not enough evidence to be firm about [healthy eating] guidelines”, but no, the findings “did not change the advice that eating too much fat is harmful for the heart”. Saturated fat reduction, he said, was just one factor we should consider as part of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Can you hear a drip, drip in the background as officially endorsed diet advice goes into meltdown?

Of course, we have already had a bitter taste of how hopelessly misleading nutritional orthodoxy can be. It wasn’t so long ago that we were spoon-fed the unimpeachable “fact” that we should eat no more than two eggs a week because they contained heart-stopping cholesterol, but that gem of nutritional wisdom had to be quietly erased from history when research showing that cholesterol in eggs had almost no effect on blood cholesterol became too glaringly obvious to ignore.

The consequences of this egg restriction nostrum were wholly negative: egg producers went out of business and the population missed out on an affordable, natural, nutrient-packed food as it mounded up its breakfast bowl with industrially processed cereals sold in cardboard boxes. But this damage was certainly less grave than that caused by the guidance to abandon saturated fats such as butter, dripping and lard, and choose instead spreads and highly refined liquid oils.

Despite repeated challenges from health advocacy groups, it wasn’t until 2010, when US dietary guidelines were amended, that public health advisers on both sides of the Atlantic acknowledged that the chemical process for hardening polyunsaturated oils in margarines and spreads created artery-clogging trans-fats.

Manufacturers have now reformulated their spreads, hardening them by chemical methods which they assure us are more benign. But throughout the 20th century, as we were breezily encouraged to embrace supposedly heart-healthy spreads, the prescription was killing us. Those who dutifully swallowed the bitter pill, reluctantly replacing delicious butter with dreary marge, have yet to hear the nutrition establishment recanting. Government evangelists of duff diet advice aren’t keen on eating humble pie.

But what lesson can we draw from the cautionary tales of eggs and trans fats? We would surely be slow learners if we didn’t approach other well-established, oft-repeated, endlessly recycled nuggets of nutritional correctness with a rather jaundiced eye. Let’s start with calories. After all, we’ve been told that counting them is the foundation for dietetic rectitude, but it’s beginning to look like a monumental waste of time. Slowly but surely, nutrition researchers are shifting their focus to the concept of “satiety”, that is, how well certain foods satisfy our appetites. In this regard, protein and fat are emerging as the two most useful macronutrients. The penny has dropped that starving yourself on a calorie-restricted diet of crackers and crudités isn’t any answer to the obesity epidemic.

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Take the egg problem, speaking from personal experience. I eat between six and a dozen eggs per week… my cholesterol is just great, perhaps a little on the low side. I also eat the fat on meat, I use lard for cooking and I don’t have margarine in the house and I don’t buy products made with it. I don’t drink soda, but sparkling mineral water, often with fresh juices added.

So, more than two years ago, I bucked the system and stopped believing manufacturers’ claims.

My advice, stop being a sheep and following the herd, think for yourself.

Eat yourself smart

Can you really eat your way to a higher IQ? According to research, yes. Here are the best ways to feed your brain

Bubbly personality … champagne has been proven to counteract memory loss. Photograph: Plainview/Getty Images

Break out the bubbly

Never has there been a more welcome research finding. Scientists at the University of Reading  found that champagne contains something called “phenolic compounds”, which stimulate signals in the parts of the brain used to control memory and learning, counteracting memory loss associated with ageing. In particular, it is helpful with spatial memory, which allows us to record information about our surroundings and navigate around it. The benefits are noticeable with one to two glasses a week, but it can’t be any old fizzy white wine, as the nutrients are only abundant in the two red grapes used to make champagne – pinot noir and pinot meurier.

Chew it over

The longer you chew your food the better – and not just because that makes it easier to digest. A number of studies have linked having no teeth with the degeneration of cognitive function, and higher dementia risk, and one hypothesis was that if you can’t chew, there is a reduction in blood flow to the brain. In 2012, a team of Swedish scientists put the chewing connection to the test. They looked at 550 people aged 77 or over, and found that those who had difficulty chewing hard foods such as apples were significantly more likely to develop cognitive impairments. Plus, chewing more slowly allows time for your food to settle, so you feel full sooner and don’t overeat.

Bake your own

Not all fats are bad for you, but trans fats – found lurking in ready-made cakes – are public enemy No 1. A 2009 study at Oregon Health and Science University found that high levels of trans fats in the bloodstream correlated with lower cognitive ability and smaller brains. What better incentive to steer clear of nasty, processed cakes and bake your own? For recipes by the master baker Dan Lepard, go to

Something fishy

We’re always being told to eat more oily fish, but until recently there was little conclusive evidence that omega fatty acids (also found in eggs and nuts), could benefit mature brains. This year, a study published in the journal Neurology showed that fatty acids help maintain brain function into old age.

After six months of upping their intake, a test group at the Universitätsmedizin in Berlin were better able to plan, organise, strategise, concentrate and remember. For bonus points, sardines are also rich in a fatty substance called phosphatidylcholine, which is the key nutrient for memory function.

B is for brain

It’s not just bad fats that can damage your brain – everything you eat affects the health of your grey matter. A recent study from Oxford University found that high levels of B vitamins could slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. So that means plenty of green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach, lots of avocado on toast to keep your folate levels up, and plenty of milk, shellfish and, if you can stomach it, liver. They all contain super-vitamin B12, which will keep your brain a healthy size and slow cognitive decline.



Make you Fink on Friday

smellthecoffeeIt’s taken more than sixty years, but somebody finally woke and smelled the coffee.

Trans fats are bad for you!

US moves to ban trans fats in foods

US food safety officials have taken steps to ban the use of trans fats, saying they are a threat to health.

Trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, are no longer “generally recognised as safe”, said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The regulator said a ban could prevent 7,000 deaths and 20,000 heart attacks in the US each year.

The FDA is opening a 60-day consultation period on the plan, which would gradually phase out trans fats.

“While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement.

“The FDA’s action today is an important step toward protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of trans fat.”

‘Industrially produced ingredient’

If the agency’s plan is successful, the heart-clogging oils would be considered food additives and could not be used in food unless officially approved.

The ruling does not affect foods with naturally occurring trans fats, which are present in small amounts in certain meat and dairy products.

Artificial trans fats are used both in processed food and in restaurants as a way to improve the shelf life or flavour of foods. The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, making it a solid.

Nutritionists have long criticised their use, saying they contribute to heart disease more than saturated fat.

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Do you use margarine?

The answer is simple, STOP!

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