March 31, 2010

Butter …better for you than Margarine…?

robertBy Robert J. Scranton, D.C.
Fibromyalgia Centers of America

Before 1920 coronary heart disease was very rare in the United States. Paul Dudley White introduced the electrocardiograph to colleagues at Harvard University and was told to focus on something that would be more profitable. The new machine was able to show the presence of arterial blockages and by doing so document the early stages of heart disease. It was over the next 40 years that the number of people with coronary heart disease rose to the point that in the mid-1950s heart disease was the #1 killer in the US. Today, heart disease kills at least 40% of the US population. We’ve been told that eating saturated fats is the cause of heart disease and so we would expect to find an increase in animal fats in the American diet. But the reverse is actually true. Between 1910 and 1970, the amount of traditional animal fat in the US diet declined from 83% to 62%, and butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person per year to 4. The consumption of margarine changed from 2 pounds per year per person to 8. Vegetable oil consumption tripled from 3 pounds per person per year to over 10. During this ‘change’ dietary cholesterol intake has only increased 1%. It was during this same period in time that vegetable oil products increased about 400% and were consumed in the forms of margarine, shortening and refined oils. During that time the average diet of sugar and processed foods increased by 60%.

It was the Kritchevsky articles that drew more theory than fact and convinced everyone that animal fats were bad and raised cholesterol. These articles in fact were based on research done over 4 decades on rabbits and later research in the 1950s and 60s debunked this pure theory. The studies in the 1950s and 60s studied the plaque build up in blood vessels in African, European, and Asian cultures compared with that of people in the US. The study confirmed that plaque build up in the arteries was merely a natural part of living because the compared cultures had high levels of artery plaque but low levels of heart disease. This message hasn’t yet filtered down to the consumer.

It is always interesting to compare cultural diets to establish the
relevancy of some information. Numerous studies have been conducted on traditional populations, yielding startling and somewhat embarrassing conclusions. A study comparing Jews when they lived in Yemen, whose diets contained fats solely of animal origin (saturated fats), to Yemenite Jews living in Israel, whose diets contained margarine and vegetable oils, showed little heart disease or diabetes in the Yemen Jews but very high levels in the Jews living in Israel. In comparing northern and southern India a similar pattern was discovered. The northern populations consume 17 times more animal fat but have a very low occurrence of heart disease. The Masai and kindred African tribes predominantly eat milk, beef and blood and are free from heart disease and low cholesterol levels. A study in Soviet Georgia revealed that those who ate the most fatty meat lived the longest. In Okinawa, the inhabitants eat generous amounts of pork and seafood and do all their cooking in lard yet the average life span of women in 84 years old. You won’t read about these studies in any articles that tell you to reduce your saturated fat (animal fat) intake. Could it be that it’s not the saturated fat that’s killing 40% of Americans?

In the US, 315 out of every 100,000 middle aged men die of heart attacks each year; in France that number is below half with 145 per 100,000. Let’s consider the well-known fact that the French consume mounds of saturated fats in the form of butter, eggs, cheese, cream, liver and meats. Yet they have one of the lowest rates of coronary heart disease when compared to other western countries. Interestingly, a survey of 1700 patients with hardening of the arteries, conducted by the famous heart surgeon Michael DeBakey found NO relationship between the level of cholesterol in the blood and the incidence of hardening of the arteries.

We are bombarded with the message that polyunsaturated oils are good for us and that saturated fats cause cancer and heart disease. The above studies should cause that message to be reconsidered and rethought. At the turn of the century, most of the fatty acids in the diet were either saturated or monosaturated, primarily from butter, lard, coconut oil and small amounts of olive oil. Today most of the fats in the diet are polyunsaturated, primarily from vegetable oils derived from soy, as well as from corn and canola. One reason that polyunsaturates cause so many health problems is that they become rancid (oxidized) when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture as in cooking and processing. Rancid oils are characterized by free radicals. Free radicals attack cell membranes and red blood cells causing damage that triggers mutation of tissue, blood vessels and skin. Free radicals cause skin to wrinkle, tissues and organs to harbor tumors and the build up of plaque in blood vessels. Is it any wonder that tests and studies have repeatedly shown a high correlation between cancer and heart disease with the consumption of polyunsaturates?

Could it be that the cause of heart disease is not animal fasts and cholesterol but rather a number of factors in our modern diet, including excess consumption of vegetable oils such as margarine, shortening, canola, soy and corn oils? Could it be related to our excess consumption of refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and white flour; mineral deficiencies, particularly low levels of protective magnesium and iodine; deficiencies of free radical fighting vitamins such as A, C and D needed for the integrity of blood vessel walls; or finally the deficiencies of saturated fats from food supplies, namely, animal fats and tropical oils? These once protected us against the kinds of viruses and bacteria that have been associated with the onset of pathogenic plaque leading to heart disease.

In a 1956 American Heart Association television fundraiser leading heart panelists were interviewed as they promoted the Prudent Diet (a new diet where corn oil, margarine, chicken and cold cereal replaced butter, lard, beef and eggs). One of the panelists was not as easily convinced as the others and took a drastic stand refusing to endorse the new diet. ‘Dr. Dudley White (see paragraph 1 of this article) noted that heart disease in the form of myocardial infarction was nonexistent in 1900 when egg consumption was three times what it was in 1956 and when corn oil was unavailable. When pressed to support the Prudent Diet, Dr. White replied: “See here, I began my practice as a cardiologist in 1921 and I never saw an MI (heart attack) patent until 1928. Back in the MI free days before 1920, the fats were butter and lard and I think that we would all benefit from the kind of diet that we had at a time when no one had ever heard the word corn oil.”’ Something to think about!