by: Fallon, Sally, M.A.
Sally Fallon is a nutrition journalist and food historian. She is the author of
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition
and the Diet Dictocrats, a full spectrum nutritional cookbook which documents the
politics behind the cholesterol theory of heart disease, and contains a detailed
description of what fats and oils are good for us and why, with supporting
scientific documentation. Sally is the editor of the Price Pottenger Nutrition
Foundation Health Journal, and is a regular contributor to a number of alternative
OILING OF AMERICA What we have had in the last 80 years is the oiling of America. We have had a big decline in the use of animal fats. People don't use lard any more. We have had a huge increase in the use of vegetable oils, either shortening, margarine or the liquid vegetable oils. Butter consumption has fallen dramatically, but the increase in heart disease and cancer is continuing to rise. It doesn't take a statistician to realize that butter consumption is not the cause of heart disease and cancer. You may have heard of the French paradox. They have one quarter the heart disease that we have, one of the lowest coronary heart disease rates of all western countries, yet they consume a lot more dairy fat than we do, and more animal fats, but their consumption of vegetable oil and hydrogenated fats is much lower.
GOOD FATS AND OILS: A good fat is a traditional fat like butter and other animal fats, and the cold-pressed traditional oils like olive, flax and sesame. These are oils that have been used for thousands of years. They are easy to get out of the seeds. We cannot extract the modern oils without technology. Traditional oils are rich in anti-oxidants. The tropical oils such as palm and coconut oils which have nourished people throughout the globe are very healthy oils. Osteoporosis does not exist in countries that use coconut oil.
BUTTER Weston Price who studied primitive peoples in the 1930's found many healthy people who nourished themselves on butter fat, and they actually considered butter a sacred food, especially when the cows were eating rapidly growing green grass. Butter is an excellent source of the fat soluble vitamins.
OLIVE OIL The type of fat which is in the adipose tissue is mostly monounsaturated. That is the kind of fat which is found in olive oil. Olive oil if it is properly processed, if it is extra virgin, is full of anti-oxidants. It is a traditional fat that has nourished people for thousands and thousands of years. It is the safest oil you can use, but it does promote weight gain, and in the Mediterranean countries the women do tend to gain weight in middle age.
FLAX SEED OIL We do recommend supplementation with flax seed oil with its high omega-3 content. Flax oil is very unsaturated. The more unsaturated something is, the more susceptible it is to rancidity when heated. When you heat it, it forms free radicals and these are very cancer promoting. Flax oil should always be kept refrigerated, and never heated.
SATURATED OILS Palm, palm kernel and coconut oils contain 80 to 90% saturated fats with small amounts of oleic acid and linoleic acid. Part of the saturated fat content is lauric acid which has strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties. These oils protect tropical populations from bacteria and fungus so prevalent in their food supply. They are extremely stable and can be kept at room temperature for many months without becoming rancid, and can be used for cooking and baking. Unfortunately they have received bad publicity from the lobbying of the vegetable oil industry and these safe and healthy oils have been abandoned in favour of artificially saturated hydrogenated soybean, corn and cottonseed oils, the waste products of America's three biggest crops.
BAD FATS AND OILS: The bad fats are the partially hydrogenated fats and the new vegetable oils and the animal fats that have been heated over and over again. There are many health problems associated with the consumption of polyunsaturated oils such as soy, corn, canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean and cottonseed oils. Use of all these oils should be strictly limited. They should never be consumed after they have been heated as in cooking, frying, baking, etc. These oils are new to the diet; you do not find these kinds of oils in the traditional diet. You get your essential fatty acids from traditional foods like nuts and seeds and green vegetables. Animal fats also provide essential fatty acids. You do not need to supplement them with vegetable oils. The only exception to that is flax seed oil. Canola oil has attracted the attention of nutritionists because of its high oleic acid content, but canola oil presents dangers of its own. It is a new oil which comes from the rapeseed, and the rapeseed oil is highly toxic. It is very high in sulphur which can cause a lot of problems. Canola oil is not a traditional oil and it should be avoided completely. All the salad oils, the pre-mixed salad dressings and the Wesson oils were not in our diet at the turn of the century. People cooked in lard, butter, goose fat, duck fat and beef tallow.
MARGARINE AND HYDROGENATED FATS Margarine is made with vegetable oil which itself is new to the human diet. It is probably already rancid because of the way the oils are extracted. Almost all of these oils contain hexane which is used as a solvent to get out all of the oil from the seeds. The oils are then steam cleaned and mixed with nickle catalyst; then they are hydrogenated by high pressure and high temperature reactions. This process rearranges the molecular structure so that the oil can become solid at room temperature. The hydrogen atoms have been moved around, and a molecule is created that does not exist in nature. Soap-like emulsifiers are mixed in and then it is steam cleaned because it smells horrible and is a lovely gray colour. They bleach it and add artificial flavours and synthetic vitamins. It is packaged in tubs and promoted as a health food. Some of the diseases that are caused or exacerbated by hydrogenated fats are atherosclerosis, heart disease, auto-immune diseases, cancer, degeneration of the joints and tendons, diabetes (hydrogenated fats interfere with insulin receptors), failure to grow and learning disabilities. Mothers who eat a lot of hydrogenated fats seem to have low birth weight babies and have reduced fat content in mother's milk, so they are not as successful in nursing their babies who are not getting all the fat they need. Hydrogenated fats are also found in chips, cookies, crackers, and fast food french fries.
POWDERED MILK AND EGGS Oxidized cholesterol in powdered milk and powdered eggs and animal fats used for deep frying initiates the build up of pathogenic plaque. Powdered milk which contains this oxidized cholesterol is added to 1% and 2% milk.
CHOLESTEROL Cholesterol is a large sterol molecule, and it is manufactured by almost every cell in the body. It is nature's repair substance. It repairs wounds and tears in the arteries. It gives structural integrity or stiffness to the cells. It is the precursor for vitamin D and bile salts. It is the precursor to the sex hormones. It is a powerful antioxidant which protects us against free radicals. That is why people with low cholesterol levels tend to get cancer, and that is why as you age, your cholesterol levels should naturally go up because it is there to protect you. Finally it is essential for the development and function of the brain and nervous system. You need cholesterol for the proper functioning of the seratonin receptors in the brain. So if it's not cholesterol, what causes heart disease? There are a number of studies and many theories which suggest a diet of fabricated, processed, refined foods.
CHOLESTEROL LOWERING DRUGS do not lower the risk of coronary heart disease but in study after study have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, intestinal diseases, depression, suicide and violent behaviour.
SUGAR AND HEART DISEASE Most fat in our bodies and in the food we eat is in the form of triglycerides (three fatty acid chains attached to a glycerol molecule). Elevated triglycerides in the blood have been positively linked to proneness to heart disease but these triglycerides do not come directly from dietary fats: they are made in the liver from any excess sugars that have not been completely burned. The source of these excess sugars is any food containing carbohydrates, but particularly refined sugar and processed carbohydrates. Refined sugar and other refined products were virtually unknown in the human diet before 1600 and never used in great quantities before the present century. In 1821 the average sugar intake in America was 10 pounds per person per year; today it is 170 pounds per person per year. As the consumption of sugar has increased so have all civilized diseases. We need foods that are whole, not skeletonized and denatured. Sugar, especially sucrose and fructose has been shown to shorten life in numerous animal experiments. Excessive use of sugar is associated with a rise in blood cholesterol, rise in triglycerides, increase in adhesiveness of the blood platelets, increase in blood insulin levels, etc. Numerous studies have positively correlated sugar consumption with heart disease. These results are far more positive than any of the studies linking heart disease and saturated fats. Moderate use of natural sweeteners is found in many traditional societies. We therefore recommended you satisfy your sweet tooth by eating fully ripened fruit in season and a limited use of natural sweeteners high in vitamins and minerals such as raw honey, dehydrated cane sugar juice (Sucanat) and maple syrup. Avoid all refined sugars including table sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, fructose and large amounts of fruit juice.
PESTICIDES, TOXINS AND CONTAMINANTS We all need to be very concerned about pesticides, toxins and contaminants, not just in our animal foods but in all of our foods. If we start demanding organically grown milk, butter and vegetables, that will promote a small scale yeoman-type farming economy. There are really only two types of economies in the world: the type where millions and millions of people make a decent living and the type where a few people make millions and millions of dollars. We want to reverse the trend and gradually go back to the kind of economy where we have a prosperous healthy farming community and real foods and naturally raised foods.
BACKGROUND POLITICS: THE MOVE FROM SATURATED FATS TO UNSATURATED OILS I have a little cookbook called The Baptist Ladies' Cookbook published in 1895 - it's 100 years old. This collection of recipes is very interesting because it contradicts our present day dietary principles which are based upon the theory that the increase of cancer and heart disease today compared to a century ago is caused by our consumption of more saturated fat from animal products. Today we are being told that saturated fats from animal sources and saturated oils are the cause of cancer, heart disease and obesity. Vegetable oils are being used as a substitute in everything from baked goods to baby food. There is hardly a recipe in this book that does not contain plenty of butter, cream, eggs or lard, but cancer and heart disease were extremely rare before the turn of the century. People were strong and sturdy, and gross obesity was not a problem. The history of how this came into being, how a whole continent traded animal fats for vegetable oils on the premise that vegetable oils are better for our health is an interesting story.
The rate of heart disease began to climb in the 1930's. By 1950, it was apparent that there was a huge increase in heart disease, particularly myocardial infarctions. The American Heart Association was formed, and in their original statement, they singled out the trans fatty acids found in hydrogenated oils as the probable source of heart disease. Hydrogenated fats are made from vegetable oils that are artificially hardened. However, Dr. Fred Matson who worked for Proctor and Gamble (who makes hydrogenation equipment and hydrogenated fats) was on the American Heart Association Advisory Board, and he was able to persuade them to drop all reference to trans fatty acids in hydrogenated oils, and instead they laid the blame for this great increase in heart disease on saturated fats from animal products. These altered documents actually encouraged the consumption of the very hydrogenated oils that were the prime suspect. The edible oil industry has a lobby called the Institute for Shortening and Edible Oils which supervised what was happening at the American Heart Association. The result was that dieticians were trained to promote processed foods. Finally in the 70's and 80's this same Dr. Fred Matson held two controlling positions in the Lipid Research Clinical Trials that led to the National Cholesterol Education Program.
By the early 70's, the American Heart Association stated that Americans had elevated levels of cholesterol in their blood and it was necessary to lower these cholesterol levels in order to avoid heart disease. All Americans in the "at risk" category were encouraged to substitute polyunsaturated vegetable oils for all saturated fats. The people behind this advice were the Institute for Shortening and Edible Oils. But they were pushing this lipid (fat) hypothesis without really having any evidence that there was any truth to it. In the early 70's, research was coming in from all over the world and some of it supported the lipid hypothesis, but much of it did not. The dissenting testimony was ignored. Their final report claimed that animal fats caused cancer and heart disease, and vegetable oils prevented them.
VEGETABLE OILS, HEART DISEASE AND CANCER My co-author, Mary Ennig from the University of Maryland, who is considered the foremost authority on lipids in America reviewed the data and noticed that people consuming a lot of vegetable oils had more cancer and heart disease, and people eating traditional foods with the animal fats had less cancer and heart disease. She published a report about her conclusions in a scientific journal, and subsequently received a surprise visit from a delegation from the edible oil industry and the margarine industry who advised her that her department wouldn't get any more funding if she continued to follow this line of research. Subsequently, when she applied for funding for her research, she was refused.
The Framingham study was supposed to support the theory that if you had high levels of cholesterol in your blood, you were more prone to heart attacks. If you evaluate their graph honestly, it shows that the difference in the heart attack rate is fairly constant, from 200 all the way up to 1,000. So what is all the fuss over cholesterol about? The truth about the Framingham study came out in 1972 in an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine in which William Castelli, the director of the Framingham study stated that the more saturated fat, the more cholesterol, the more calories one ate, the lower the peoples' serum cholesterol was. They also found that people who ate the most cholesterol and the most saturated fats weighed the least and were the most physically active.
LOW CHOLESTEROL LINKED TO INCREASED RATES OF CANCER The next study was called the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, done on 362,000 men, testing their cholesterol levels related to heart disease. They found a very trivial increase in the rate of deaths from coronary heart disease as the rate of serum cholesterol went up. They also found the same thing which had been found in many other studies, that when your cholesterol levels are too low, the rate of death from other diseases, particularly cancer, goes way up. With cholesterol levels below 160, there was a greater rate of death from cancer, intestinal diseases, violence, suicide, increased depression. So it isn't a very fair trade off.
The final major study that is used to justify the lipid hypothesis was the Lipid Research Clinics Trial. Once again, Fred Matson from Proctor and Gamble held two very important positions in designing this research and the way it was presented to the public. These studies didn't study whether a low cholesterol, low fat diet would help you. All the subjects were on a low cholesterol, low saturated fat diet. One was given a cholesterol lowering drug and one was given a placebo. Researchers claimed that the group taking the drug had a 17% reduction in the rate of coronary heart disease. But independent researchers including Mary Ennig at the University of Maryland found no difference in coronary heart disease between the drug group and the placebo group. Once again they found that those who had lowered their cholesterol by using the drugs had an increase in deaths from cancer, stroke, violence and suicide. Nevertheless, this study was presented in the media as the long sought proof that animal fat was the cause of heart disease, though it proved nothing of the sort.
In 1984, we had the Cholesterol Consensus Conference. In their report they defined all Americans with cholesterol between 200 and 300 as "at risk". As we saw earlier, there is no increase in coronary heart disease between these two levels. There is no difference in risk or rate or anything else. But they defined 200 as this magic point where you are at risk. They called for mass cholesterol screening and recommended a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol for at risk Americans. One very specific suggestion in this report was that Americans replace butter with margarine. Don't forget that Fred Matson of Proctor and Gamble who makes hydrogenation equipment and hydrogenated fats was behind all of this work.
FAT FOR CHILDREN One of the most serious things to come out of this program was the recommendation that the low cholesterol diet be given to all Americans above the age of two. But children need a lot of fat in their diet. Mother's milk is 55% fat and it is mostly saturated fat. It is extremely high in cholesterol, and it has a special enzyme that helps the baby absorb the cholesterol. That is how important cholesterol is for the growing child. Studies of children put on this low fat, low cholesterol diet show failure to thrive. They do not grow the way they are supposed to on this low fat diet. Children need more fat than adults right through their growing years, right up to the age of 18 or 20 because fat and cholesterol are very important for the development of the brain and nervous system.
Basically, the experts disagree with the lipid hypothesis. George Mann who worked in the Framingham study said the public is being deceived by the greatest health scam of the century. Here is what has caused the health care crisis: The ingredients are greed, cunning, ignorance, lies, envy, extortion, manipulation and fraud. The agenda is that you conspire to convince the populace that natural whole foods that have nourished mankind for thousands and thousands of years are dangerous and unhealthy, and that they cause heart disease and cancer so that the populace will buy the new fabricated foods which you are selling. Then you train the medical profession to advocate antibiotics, vaccinations, fluoride and fabricated foods as scientifically proven methods for preventing illness. You ignore and suppress healing methods that have worked for centuries, you claim that real diseases have no cure, and you define normal human conditions such as menopause and average cholesterol levels as illness that must be treated with expensive drugs which create serious side effects.
Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions is one of the most important books you can read.