Cholesterol

Saturated Fat

Friend or Foe? I have completed my review of some 15 studies (some of which studied the studies), with results dating from 2004 to 2015 and including hundreds of thousands of people observed over long periods of time (20 years seems to be the gold standard). I can say this: saturated fats are certainly not a foe. The fats caused no increase in heart or vascular events for the eaters of butter, eggs, red meat, cheese and milk compared to the control group that ate very little of those good foods.

Want even better news? Polyunsaturated fats, such as found in Omega-3 foods such as ours, actually reduced the chance of heart events compared to the general population. LDL went down and HDL went up.

So, I think we are making progress despite the strength of the agenda-minded folks out there in returning to sensibilities about our food. One thing I want to add is this: the benefit of eating your meat and dairy is greatly enhanced by plant food appearing next to it. All food works together. Eat like the octogenarian, Thomas Jefferson, recommended. A meat accompanied by fresh vegetables and a fruit. Each in roughly equal volume to the other. 

Rediscovering the Benefits of Animal Proteins and Fats

The beat goes on. I can say it no better than Anahad O’Connor of the New York Times Science edition on September 1st: “People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.”

Thank goodness that we have medical scientists that are willing to question the long-held beliefs about fat and protein. For decades now our own government has insisted that we follow a diet which is demonstrably bad for us. Dr. Atkins, who did no more than report, anecdotally, significant improvements in his patients that switched to low carb, high protein and fat diets, was pilloried for his suggestions. Yet every controlled study in the last 10 years has demonstrated that he was right, and now it is the high carb, low fat crowd that has egg on its face (pun intended) as we watch our girth and risk of disease grow exponentially. The latest study that says we must re-emphasize proteins and fats, sponsored by the National Institute of Health, adds fuel to the fire in several respects.

The most significant finding from my perspective is the stunning reversal in the understanding of saturated fats’ role in heart health. This point deserves a verbatim quote as well: “It’s been thought that your saturated fat is, of course, going to increase [when eating beef, as an example], and then your cholesterol is going to go up,” she said. “And then bad things will happen in general. The new study showed that was not the case.”

A couple of reasons apparently explain why the high protein group did so well metabolically on protein and fats derived from Real Food.

  1. The saturated fat found in meats form into a large cell, slippery LDL which have no tendency to attach to arterial walls. Those markers formed by processed carbs make a small cell, sticky substance that does cling to our walls, leading to atherosclerosis. So while the LDL levels in both groups remained the same, the carb eaters had the dangerous type while the meat eaters had the innocuous version.
  2. The carb eaters lost muscle but not fat while the meat eaters lost fat and built muscle. The doctors noted that our ratio of muscle to fat was important for heart health, even more so than simply losing weight.

I had just read the report when I saw the founder and CEO of Whole Foods grocery chain on television, himself an icon for the vegetarian movement. He is a picture of un-muscled emaciation and now I know why. Just doesn’t look healthy, does he? I must add that I have also seen vegetarians that did have a healthy glow to them, but I always ask and the answer is the same. They take large doses of supplements, a much more expensive and less efficient way to try to get the proteins and fats into your body. Not to mention the stress it puts on your colon, liver and kidneys. Why not enjoy Real Food instead?

Another significant point about this study is that there was no caloric restriction imposed on the participants in either group. They ate as much as they pleased. Yet the average weight loss was much higher among the low carb group, and that is another reason to endorse the low carb diet. To lose weight, it is easier and more sustainable to change the choice of foods consumed than it is to reduce caloric intake.

This all may seem counter-intuitive, but my own experience supports their conclusion. Protein, and fat especially, is self-regulating. When your body has met its needs, it will tell you and you will moderate your intake until it is time to re-load. Carbs are different. The sugars found therein, especially among the simple, refined or processed carbs, have a rebound effect that prompts you to eat more and more. And that’s the problem with too many carbs! Limit or eliminate them, eating only complex carbs in moderation and accompanied by your favorite meat.*

*In this column, “meat” refers to the edible muscle of any creature, be it 4-legged, fish or fowl.

Carnitines

Yet another study is out suggesting that meat may be related to heart disease by way of its protein which metabolizes to something called carnitine. Here we go again with another “preliminary” study which says nothing definitively but the headline, as I saw on the NBC evening news Monday night, is “Beef may cause heart disease.”

I got lucky while on the road Tuesday morning. The Diane Rhem show (NPR) brought the doctor of the study and 2 other clinicians to bear on the subject. Very interesting and enlightening on the details of the study, most of which will never be heard or noted by the average consumer.

Here are a few things that you, the above average consumer, should know. The very doctor who conducted the study said we should cut back to say 2 beef servings per week. He had been eating 5 servings a week before the study, but has no symptoms of heart disease. They are not now sure that cholesterol counts have anything to do with heart disease (they couldn’t get off of that one until they had something in beef to replace it, I guess?). On average, we eat 2 ounces of beef per day across America, 14 ounces per week. That is below any suggested risk range in this study and by the way, is less beef than a couple eating our package each month would consume.  As we preach incessantly, eating a balanced whole food diet is the way to go — beef, pork, chicken, and fish with proper quantities of veggies and fruits, is the right way. There are no dietary risks when you eat like the long-lived Thomas Jefferson.

Where’s the Fatty Acid ?!!

Speaking of good fats, Honi and I participated in an inter-active focus group concerning the relationship between what we eat and healthy hearts. It was inter-active in the sense that we not only responded to questions put to us by the moderator but were also encouraged to pose our own questions to the group of twelve. By the way, the group included people that were thought to be knowledgeable about nutrients and in what foods they were found - doctors, dietitians, chefs, farmers and lay persons.

The group quickly came to consensus on what were and were not the nutrients that were both good and bad for the heart. Omega 3's and CLA’s = Good, wherever they were found.  Bad = hydrogenated fats, trans-fats created therefrom, processed foods in general, and especially, refined sugars. So far so good.  Things did not go off track until the group was asked to explain what they thought a proper diet would look like. In other words, put your knowledge into practice. How do you accomplish that heart-healthy diet? What does it look like on your plate? That is when the outdated but still embedded ignorance came out. When it came around to us, about half of the group had nominated skinless boneless breast of chicken breast as their choice for a heart healthy entree’. So we asked a question before describing our plate - where do the Omega 3's and CLA’s that we all seek come from? The group either did not know or thought it came from the muscle - the “lean” - of the flesh, be that beef, chicken, pork or salmon. They were shocked, and frankly disbelieving in some cases, that these important nutrients come not from the lean but from the fat. Skip the skin on the chicken and you skip the Omega 3s and CLAs too. (We assume the meats are grass-fed and free ranging like you get from JVF.)

How is it the case that large portions of the populace still try to eliminate fats from their diet, thinking it is all bad? This myth started with the completely unfounded and simplistic assumption (and it was no more than that) that if cholesterol showed up in our arteries, it must be from fat in our diet. While the literature now disputes this, the myth remains in the average person’s mind because it is so embedded by years of preaching the wrong values.

We always leave as much of a fat layer on our meats when possible. Even if you trim it off, do not do so until you have cooked with the fat on. It will not only flavor your meat but it will combine in the natural juices and you will get its heart healthy attributes that way. For my part, I eat it along with the lean as well as the au jus.

There are other reasons to include fats and oils in your diet. Meats contain the essential vitamins A,D,E and K. These are fat soluble vitamins. They are most efficiently metabolized when eaten in combination with fats. Without fats, they are absorbed poorly, if at all. So eat your meats and fats in sensible but frequent doses. It’s a good thing.

Cholesterol Redux

I reported impressive results on my personal cholesterol levels last month. My levels had dropped 30%, from the risk level into the safe level. Note that my reduction amounted to a 30% drop - though the profession will tell you that the best you can do with diet alone is a 20% reduction. Of course, that was based on people eating industrial foods, so a 30% drop again confirms the medicinal value of Real Food. Since then I have heard the same kind of positive results from our long and faithful adherent, Donna M. Both of us had ignored doctors’ advice to take statin drugs so widely recommended by the medical profession.*

But I want to note  that these improvements do not occur overnight. Remember, if you have cholesterol  issues, they did not develop overnight and it will take some time to turn the ship. Be content in knowing that you have cocked the wheel in a different direction.   Real food is the best medicine.

* Late-breaking news on that front...there is deep concern that statins such as Lipitor, Crestor, and so on, are contributing to Alzheimer-like symptoms. Be careful out there on the pharmaceutical edge.

Real Food – The Proof of the Pudding is Truly in the Eating

When Honi and I started eating our meats exclusively 5 years ago after launching our totally natural grass-fed operation at Jolie Vue, my adult cholesterol level had consistently run in the 235 to 275 range, and LDL to HDL ratio was consistently in the “risk range”. Doc was always urging me to take statins, but I resisted, a skeptic when it comes to the pharmaceuticals. In addition to our beef, pork, chicken and eggs, we also “ate like TJ”, adding three vegetables and a slice of fresh fruit to our meat serving as often as possible. I am all for the doctors, visiting them every 5 years or so whether I need to or not, so my last visit came recently and near the 5th anniversary of our new dietary plan. Guess what? For the first time in my adult life, my cholesterol fell below the dreaded 200+  range to 194 and now, at age 62, I am out of the “risk range”. I wish I had monitored it more frequently so I would know when it began dropping and at what rate. I am sure everybody’s physiology is different, but it is proof in my case that grass-fed makes a big difference. As Honi says, “Pay for good food now or pay the doctors, hospitals and drug companies later.” Good food is less expensive.