Degenerative diseases that involve fats prematurely kill over two-thirds of the people currently living in affluent, industrialized nations. Sixty-eight percent of people die from just three conditions that involve fatty degeneration: cardiovascular disease (43.8%), cancer (22.4%), and diabetes (1.8%). These deaths are the result of eating habits based on ignorance and misconceptions.
Controversy and Misinformation about Fats and Oils
Butter and margarine have been controversial for years. There is continuing debate about why polyunsaturates, which are essential, also cause cancer. There is talk of ‘bad’ beef fat and ‘good’ fish oils. We hear rumors about hydrogenation and processed oil products. There are stories about fried fats. There’s the scary topic of cholesterol. These stories have generated more heat than light.
Simplistic and inaccurate half-truths that serve advertising and sales efforts have created confusion. We need clear, factual information, in simple English.
Information (or misinformation) has trickled down to us through the grapevine as rumors, hearsay, advertising copy, popular articles by reporters and amateurs without training or clarity in this complex topic, doctors untrained in nutrition, and industry ‘experts’. Everyone I meet in my travels has heard conflicting stories about how fats, oils, cholesterol, and nutrients affect human health. People are interested but confused, and they want clear, practical answers.
Medical doctors, to whom we have entrusted our health because we have not yet learned to care for it ourselves, studied disease rather than health in medical school. Their curriculum included little on nutrition, lots on pharmaceutical drugs, and nothing about the effects of processing fats and oils on human health.
Since we are natural biological organisms, we must attain, maintain, and regain good health through natural approaches – through foods and life-styles in keeping with the biological needs that nature genetically built into us. Each of us must learn to care for our own body, since we alone live in it, we alone feed and direct it, and we alone bear the direct consequences of eating habits and lifestyles out of line with our natural biological requirements.
Drug and high-tech approaches to disease management are slowly yielding to overwhelming amounts of new research evidence that supports the importance of foods and nutrients in healing. But doctors steeped in drug-oriented medical practices (crisis intervention, symptom control, and disease management) remain skeptical about natural approaches to health. Beyond advising us to heed woefully inadequate pronouncements about the ‘four daily food groups’ (our changing times have seen three, five, and seven food groups recommended by the same regulating bodies), such doctors fail those who struggle toward improved health through natural means based on improved nutrition – including healing substances that come from fats and oils.
Accurate information about the importance of nutrients to health is gathering dust, buried in research journals written in the boring style of scientific writing, hidden under a technical language that most readers have not been taught. Information on fats, oils, and cholesterol now numbers in the thousands of volumes.
Healing fats and killing fats. The fact is that some fats are absolutely required for health, while others are detrimental. Some fats heal, and others kill. Whether a fat heals or kills depends on several factors: What kind of fat is it? How has it been treated – is it fresh, has it been exposed to light, oxygen, heat, hydrogen, water, acid, base, or metals like copper and iron? How old is it? How has it been used in food preparation? How much was eaten? What balance of different fats do we get?
If we get the right kinds of fats in the right amounts and balances, and prepare them using the right methods, they build our health and keep us healthy. The wrong kinds of fats, the wrong amounts or balances, or even the right kinds of fats wrongly prepared cause degenerative diseases that we call diseases of fatty degeneration. Other nutrients can also cause fatty degeneration, and so can lack of certain essential nutrients. We can reverse diseases of fatty degeneration by making appropriate changes in fat choices, preparation, and consumption, and by supporting these important changes with attention to other nutrients in our food supply.
The Roots of Fatty Degeneration
If we want to get at the root of fatty degeneration, we must investigate all aspects of fats, oils, fatty acids, and cholesterol: What are they? How do they work? What do they do in our body? Where do we get them? How does our body use them? How do we process and alter them? Which ones can produce illnesses? How do we avoid the ‘killer fats’? Which ones enhance our health? Where do we find and how do we use the fats that heal?
We have gathered and published enough research information in scientific journals, developed enough biochemical understanding, documented enough clinical experience, and studied enough food traditions around the world to tell the whole story. This story should be known by everyone. It must not be allowed to gather dust in the ivory towers of higher academic education.
In order to maintain health, avoid disease, and regain health once we have lost it, we need to change our consumption of fats, oils, and other fatty substances. If we want to avoid premature death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases of fatty degeneration, and if we want to avoid the suffering of arthritis, obesity, premenstrual syndrome, and certain types of mental illness, we need to take this last and least well-understood area of human nutrition into full account in our food choices. To do so, we must become informed.
Fats Do Not Act Alone
Fatty degeneration involves many substances other than fats, oils, and cholesterol. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that we understand the broader context into which the story of the fats that heal and the fats that kill must fit. You can learn more in my book Fats That Heal Fats That Kill.