In 1907, Edwin Kayser, a German chemist, wrote a letter to Procter & Gamble about a process of turning cottonseed oil into solid form. Before that, cottonseed oil was a cloudy, red, and bitter because of gossypol, a phytochemical dangerous to many animals because it is linked to abnormal potassium levels, organ damage, and paralysis.
Procter & Gamble created a lab, known as Ivorydale, to test this new technology. The product was a new creamy, pearly, white substance – known today as hydrogenated vegetable oil – and was given the name Crisco. Procter & Gamble promoted the plant-based product as healthier than animal fats. It soon replaced lard and butter for cooking. They marketed it as a new, “healthier” compound called trans fat. Crisco garnered sales and marketing success and became a household product.
This story was mentioned in an article in The Atlantic, which was excerpted by Drew Ramsay, MD, and Tyler Graham in their book The Happiness Diet. This shows how “fake lard” came to find its way to the homes of Americans.
The Keys Study: More Evidence Against Saturated Fat
Apart from the massive marketing campaign for Cricso, a study created by Dr. Ancel Keys also led to the discrediting of the benefits of animal fats, or saturated fat. Keys compared saturated fat consumption and heart disease mortality, and based his paper on a study on six countries, where saturated fat intake equated to higher rates of heart disease.
However, he failed to include data from 16 other countries that disproved his theory. If all 22 countries were included in the study, it would have clearly shown that the communities that consumed the highest amount of saturated fat had the lowest risk of heart disease.
Dr. Joseph Mercola says, “Unfortunately, the idea that saturated fat is bad for your heart has become so ingrained in the medical and health community that it’s very difficult to break through that misinformation barrier. Still, the fact of the matter is that the saturated fat-heart disease link was a hypothesis that did not stand up to further scrutiny.”
You can learn more about this by listening to Dr. Mercola’s interview with Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat and Bad Calories.
Another Health Myth: Cholesterol Raises Your Risk of Heart Attack
90 years later, researchers were able to definitively prove that trans fat increased the risk of heart disease by 23 percent. Other discoveries showed that this fat contributes to cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance, skin disease, fertility problems, and many others. Also, it was found that there is no proof that animal fats posed the same threats.
Studies debunking Keys’ research found proof that saturated fat actually supported heart health. Nonetheless, low-fat foods were introduced to the market, and the rates of heart disease increased.
Along with the misconceptions about saturated fat rose the myth that cholesterol is bad for your heart.
Certain foods, such as eggs, were regarded as unhealthy because they raised your cholesterol levels. Just as low-fat products were sold, highly processed foods posing as “healthier” substitutes were also introduced. An example of this is Egg Beaters, which contains egg whites with added flavoring, vitamins, and gum thickeners. This product has lower calories, and no saturated fat and cholesterol.
Dr. Mercola believes that this is completely unnecessary, as whole eggs (provided they come from free-range hens) are healthy. They are an abundant source of biotin, a member of the B complex group of vitamins. Also, epidemiological studies repeatedly state that cholesterol has no relation to coronary heart disease, giving people no reason to avoid eggs.
The Keys to Optimal Health: What You Need to Eat
The truth is: you need saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources, since they are necessary for many of your body’s functions. Saturated fat:
- Provides building blocks for your cell membranes, hormones, and other hormone-like substances
- Helps in the absorbability of fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K
- Contributes to the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, and for effective mineral absorption
- Contains caprylic acid and lauric acid, which act as antiviral agents
- Contains palmitic and stearic acid, which help bring cholesterol levels to normal range
- Contains butyric acid, which aids in modulating genetic regulation and helps in preventing cancer
According to Dr. Mercola, the real culprits of heart disease are trans fat and sugar or fructose – the main ingredient in many processed foods. These increase your LDL levels or “bad cholesterol,” while lowering your HDL levels or “good cholesterol.” They can induce various health problems, such as clogging your arteries and can cause type II diabetes.
Dr. Mercola advises to keep your intake of trans fat and fructose under 15 grams per day, or simply eliminate processed foods – sugar, refined carbs, and dangerous fat – from your diet.
Be careful when buying products whose labels indicate that they contain no trans fat. While some food manufacturers have removed trans fats from their products, the FDA allows food manufacturers to round down to zero any ingredient that is less than 0.5 grams per serving. Avoid products with more than just zero grams of trans fat, as well as partially hydrogenated oil.
Dr. Mercola also lists other tips that will provide you the right kind of fat:
- Use only organic butter made from raw milk – Avoid margarine and vegetable oil spread
- Cook only with virgin coconut oil – This oil is loaded with numerous health benefits.
- Virgin olive oil – This should be used cold. It should not be used for cooking, but only to be drizzled on salad or fish.
- Follow Dr. Mercola’s nutrition plan – This plan focuses on eating healthy whole foods.
- Eat more raw fats (from avocados, raw dairy products, and olive oil) and animal-based fats (omega-3 fat)
- Incorporate 50 to 70 percent healthy fat into your diet – Dr. Mercola and Paul Jaminet, PhD, an expert on diabetes treatment through diet, recommend this for optimal health.