Thursday, 26 March 2009

Fat is Now Good

So after 30 odd years of demonizing fat, it looks like we have turned the corner! After last night's Lau Gar session I headed to the climbing wall to meet a few mates for a bit of bouldering fun.

I had fasted all day (no problem with hunger pangs), and returned home to enjoy my usual fast-breaking meal of liver and steak lightly fried in chicken fat, steamed broccoli and cauliflower topped with (full fat) grated cheese and a side order of boiled eggs.

For the fat-phobic who recoil at the use of chicken fat, full fat cheese and eggs in my diet I should point out that I was BodPodded at 10.3% body fat last week. I do no 'cardio' as such although the Lau Gar does go in to cardio territory but seldom for more than two minutes 'under tension'. So much for conventional advice on lowering bodyfat!

What really got me choking on my refined-carb free feast was an advert I saw on TV. It came with the link to a program called FatSatNav. This hit me for several reasons not least because of another story appearing in the papers over the weekend.

The first point I'd like to make is that we really do seem to be coming to a point in nutrition where the media (and so popular consciousness) is isolating refined carbohydrate as enemy number one rather than fat (with salt coming in third). And secondly, the thrust of FatSatNav is clearly an attempt at the rehabilitation of fat (albeit the WRONG fat!).

So what does FatSatNav advise? Here are their (Unilever's) Fat Facts:
  1. Fat Fact: Margarine can be a great source of mono - and polyunsaturates (like Omega 3 and Omega 6), and a good source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E Fat
  2. Fact: Most margarines contain only trace amounts of trans fats (bad ones!), whereas butter typically contains 3% trans fats
  3. Fat Fact: Some margarines can contain up to 78% less saturated fat than butter
  4. Fat Fact: Four slices of bread spread with margarine could contain as much as 15% of your daily requirement of good fats (Omega 3 and Omega 6) and as little as 5% of your daily calorie intake or GDA for calories
  5. Fat Fact: Switching from butter to margarine as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to manage your cholesterol level
An alternative view can be found here posted by Stefan who offers a firm riposte to the idea that margarine is in anyway healthful. ('Foodie-types' might be interested to learn that margarine was invented by the French, who are known for their passion for food!)

There is also a debate embedded in the piece devoted to saturated fat. Sadly it is ruined by talk of 'consensus' rather than robust science. Worse still is the lame idea of 'everything in moderation' that permeates several of the addresses.

Dr John Briffa is involved in the debate and gives a sound performance but the whole piece from beginning to end is steeped in fat-phobic verbiage. The questions section at the end is a bloody travesty of editing where there seems to be favourable bias given to those speaker in support of the fat-phobic line.

Briffa is the only one that actually seems to refer to specific scientific literature whereas the rest give either anecdotal evidence or vague references to 'scientists think this...', 'we know that saturated fat does that...' and '...we have 50 years of evidence the other.... Sadly his contribution seems to have been limited in the debate so much (presumably because he was not 'on-message'), he comes across as a bit isolated and out-of-step with the others.

There is some agreement amongst the panel about giving percentage breakdowns of fats, sugars etc...but I have addressed the difficulties of maintaining a daily running total of how much you have eaten of a particular food group before. It will not work!

For me, I just follow my paleo compass. If you can eat it raw, eat it. Eat seasonally. Sprint, throw and climb a bit. Walk and carry frequently.

I do take heart that the usual 'fat message' is HAVING to adjust and that the spotlight of obesity is being retrained on refined carbohydrate and HFCS. Mahatma Ghandi said "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." We have left first base!


Methuselah said...

Good link. I was disappointed by Briffa's oratorial skills. The first guy who was talking bollocks had a much more plausible delivery style, as did the loony doctor who claimed diet had no relation to health. We needed Taubes.

Asclepius said...

Yeah - the message is getting through. I think much of Briffa's contribution ended up on Unilever's cutting room floor. If you were to count out pro fat, neutral and fat phobic airtime the phobes would easily come out on top.

It would have been nice to get Taubes on there - just to have another pro-fat dude on the panel.

How hum - I am sure Unilever's sales department are happy with another infomercial.