Wilson’s Video Review: The Oiling of America
Discussing the Lipid hypothesis, fat and heart disease
“Lettuce is a modern luxury and in the past people only had lettuce during certain parts of the year. And this leads to my own particular theory about the cause of heart disease—it is caused by lettuce” (Morell, 2008). If you have never read anything from Sally Fallon Morell, then that last statement will likely not resonate with you. However, I recently had the chance to meet her and I was pleased to see that I share the same sarcastic sense of humor with her. Her high-water book, Nourishing Traditions is a straight talk book about everything that you wanted to know about food and nutrition but were afraid to ask. Her challenge to the “diet dictocrats” starts on page 4 with a discussion on fats and how the right fat is in fact healthy for you.
I tend to read a lot more books than watch videos. Although I found the movies Fresh and Food, Inc. fascinating and entertaining they are not well constructed arguments that you would expect to see in a book due to the nature of their brevity. The average book that I read takes me 10-30 hours to read, where a movie is two hours or less of “engagement.” If you do not have the ability to watch this presentation, you can download the slides here for free or buy the movie (I recommend that) here.
“Americans have cholesterol that is too high.” If that statement sounds like everything that you have ever heard or read on the latest publications in the supermarket checkout that pass for scientific journals, then you will really enjoy this video. What is a healthy diet? Well, that is exactly what Sally Fallon Morell specializes in not only by writing Nourishing Traditions, but also by presiding over the Weston A. Price Foundation as well as being a farmer herself.
Saturated fat, the long time target of what Michael Pollan calls “lipophobia” has been all the rage; sadly, it never went out with the Carter Administration, which is the era from whence it came. The story of how fat and heart disease became “the truth” is an interesting story that was rightfully scorned in the early part of last century when it was first espoused. According to the DVD presentation by Sally Fallon Morell, the first myocardial infarction (heart attack) was not recorded in America until 1921; by 1930 it was 3,000 myocardial infarction deaths and by 1960 it was 500,000 deaths. Today the number of deaths from heart attacks is 600,000 each year, and according to the CDC—that is one out of every four deaths.
The numbers are treacherous, 600,000 deaths is a crushing amount. However, where do they come from? Lettuce? Not directly, likely the silent killer for so many people eating a “western diet” is transfats, white sugar and white flour. Saturated fats do so much for food. Without saturated fats culinary arts would not have progressed nearly as far as they have over time because the “peasant foods” that make ethnic culinary cuisine so popular the world over would not have been invented.
For example, what gives a croissant the flaky crust—fat, real fat. You can substitute bread, gravy, sausage, salami, bacon, or cheese and get the same trajectory in culinary tradition—go with the fats. The reason why saturated fat is so popular in history is because it keeps so long–it is stable. Take lard for example, when properly rendered it will keep for a looooooong time. The prized leaf fat from a pig’s back is found no where else in nature and is so valuable, that it is the only fat good enough for traditional Charcuterie methods for making salami. Why do saturated fats last so long? Because they do not oxidize very easily—that is to say that they do not go rancid like a polyunsaturated fat will at a much faster rate. Fats or anything else that oxidize easily are generally known in the business as free radicals—bad news.
Graph showing the “French Paradox:” can originally be found here
Among epidemiologists and other people who study these trends, there exists something known as the “French Paradox.” In case you are not conversant on food science studies and governments’ interest in them, the “French Paradox” is the trend that shows the populations of Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria as eating diets high in saturated fats but having lower than normal complications from heart disease. This is bad news if you were say all geared up to push statins on the market . . .
The elephant in the room that Sally Fallon Morell really brings to the front of the viewer’s attention is if fat and heart disease is such a sure connection, then why is saturated fat (namely animal fats) the number one target? If animal fats (the largest source of saturated fat) are the culprit, then why do vegetarians have similar autopsy results to omnivores? “Autopsy studies show zero correlation between estimated animal fat intake, and degree of atherosclerosis of serum cholesterol level” (Morell, 2008). Why Sally Fallon Morell does make a good case for the benefits of saturated fat and animal fats in particular, the culprit for heart disease has to be something else other than high cholesterol food—because not all fats and not all cholesterols are the same.
If the fat and heart disease link is so unassailable, should history not show the same trend when you control for certain factors? Unfortunately not for these en vogue “diet dictocrats.” One early opponent was a medical doctor by the name of Dr. Paul Dudley White, who was known as “the father of modern cardiology,” one of the founders of the American Heart Association and personal physician to President Eisenhower following Ike’s heart attack. Dr. White had this to say on public television,
“Heart disease in the form of myocardial infarction was nonexistent in 1900 when egg consumption was three times what it was in 1956 and corn oil was unavailable. . . . See here, I began my practice as a cardiologist in 1921 and I never saw an MI patient until 1928. Back in the MI free days of 1920 the fats were butter and lard. And I think that we would all benefit from the kind of diet we had at that time when no one had heard the word ‘corn oil’” (Morell, 2008).
French Paradox comic strip is used with persmission from Lola Lollipop
There is way more content in the video than can be effectively summarized here in just one blog, and everyone has to weigh out the evidence for themselves between the accepted link of fat and heart disease. However, given the historical cover-ups, the half-baked scientific methods used to show pre-approved results in the “studies”, and the force of law used to leverage the outcomes– the DVD is well worth an hour of your time to evaluate what Sally Fallon Morell presents on the detangled science of real food. Lastly, it would be anticlimactic to not establish the link between lettuce and heart disease—transfats found in salad dressings and other food imitators. Speaking as a former lipophobe, I can actually believe that it is not butter. Butter, cream and eggs perform like nothing else—but they are costly and the real foods that they are used in will spoil much more quickly than other . . . shall we say, not real foods.
Pro Deo et Patria
Oiling of America is from New Trends Publications
Saturated Fat by Pantry Paratus
Fat and Heart Disease is taken from Dr. Briffa’s blog of the UK, the original source can be found here
Fat Characteristics by Pantry Paratus
French Paradox comic strip is used with permission from Lola Lollipop
Morell, S. (Presenter) (2008). The oiling of America [DVD].
Fallon, S., & Enig, M. (2005). Nourishing traditions. (Deluxe Edition ed., p. 4). Washington DC: NewTrends Publishing.
Article on Dr. Paul Dudley White: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/clc.4960140716/abstract
Nothing in this blog constitutes medical advice. You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes. Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.