Maybe a Buttered Bacon Sandwich?

May 9, 2017 in Exercise, Foodland, Health, Mediterranean, Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

Yes, I know nutrition news, with its conflicting and rapid changes, can be confusing. Yes, I’ve heard hundreds of times that there are so many confusing pieces of nutrition advice. But not all of it comes from reputable scientific studies. Let me try to make some very complex new opinions and research as understandable as I can. Let me help you make some informed decisions, based upon the preponderance of evidence and not on the latest hot topic that journalists hope will attract readership.

Just in case you only want to read the beginning of this article, let me tell you that as much as our taste buds might wish it were true, using our minds wisely tell us that we can’t load up on butter and bacon and be optimally healthy.

Are you wondering where this is all coming from? The British Journal of Sports Medicine has published an editorial opinion online – you can read it for free; it’s pretty straightforward; albeit a bit confusing. It’s probably best for you to just read the article, but, in short, this is what I understand from it: Because there are studies that show that saturated fat is not the ‘Cause’ of coronary heart disease – saturated fat (a collection of saturated fatty acids, as a whole), is not “causing” coronary heart disease, but chronic inflammation is the actual “cause.” (I like their “pimple” metaphor for how inflammation breaks out to cause trouble; it works!) Their opinion is that educators should change their paradigm to healthy lifestyle interventions (walking briskly, stress reduction and eating real food). Before I get too far from this statement, let me mention that they cite and solidly endorse the Mediterranean diet. Note: if you’re new to this site you may not know that we’ve been proponents of the Mediterranean style of eating from the very beginning of Dr. Grandmas.

Now here’s the confusion; the Mediterranean style of eating is not high in saturated fat. Sure there are saturated fatty acids in olive oil, but the Mediterranean diet is certainly not high in the saturated fat from red meat and butter. So all in all, when they try to take the onus for bad health off of saturated fats, they are denying the lifestyle message that many others and we been giving for so many years! When I read that saturated fat does not “cause” coronary heart disease, my fear rose up that many will think it is the green light to have butter on their bacon sandwich. OK, go whole hog on saturated fat. I think this is a big mistake. There really is a preponderance of evidence that links diets high in red meat, especially processed meat (red meat is high in saturated fat) with coronary heart disease and cancer. Whether it’s the saturated fat or some other factor in red meat, is still to be elucidated. I feel fairly confident that the BJM article will be taken straight to the bank, as the cattlemen and pork producers will take their “not guilty” interpretation of the BJM message straight to their meat marketing people; my fear is that it’s like money in the bank for them. Putting spin on snippets of information is what advertizing seems to be all about now, precisely because it might benefit sales of their product. It doesn’t matter that the spin might be 180 degrees in the opposite direction of the preponderance of evidence and opinion among the scientists involved in the research.

What we know and what we’re just learning

Yes, we’re back to the growth in nutrition knowledge – I’ve said a number of times over the years, “Nutrition is in its infancy; there’s still so much to learn.” Even if its only in its childhood or adolescence, it has a ways to go. The confusion may be coming from the fact that the different saturated fatty acids act differently in the body. Unfortunately, we don’t know to that level of detail yet. Some of the saturated fatty acids that are more or less harmful come from the same sources; so it’s difficult to know what’s going on – researchers are tying to find out.

But meantime, there is a substantial predominance of evidence that should guide us to cut back on saturated fat (especially from fatty meats and butter). Eating a diet high in vegetables/fruit, fish, and whole grains as found in the Mediterranean style of eating is still a good way to eat. Certainly, it’s just one part of the three-part lifestyle plan suggested by the BMJ article; so don’t forget to exercise and reduce stress too. And don’t add buttered bacon sandwiches to your regular menu.