Strictures against saturated fat, which have constituted U.S. government policy for over three decades, are deeply embedded in the nation’s consciousness. Yet a recent medical journal article is questioning the merits of such policies.
In March, the journal Annals of Internal Medicine published a meta-analysis of seventy-six scientific studies on the effect of various fats on heart disease, “Association of Dietary, Circulating and Supplement Fatty Acids with Coronary Risk.” The conclusion researchers drew after reviewing these studies was “Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”
Federal policy prohibits whole milk and butter in school lunches. It is difficult to find whole milk products in a U.S. airport or butter in a chain restaurant or nursing home. Lawmakers continue to weigh new laws against these alleged “bad fats.”
For example, the Connecticut state legislature is currently reviewing a proposed law to ban whole milk in daycare centers.
In contrast, the Weston A. Price Foundation, based on the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston A. Price in the 1930s, has worked to restore foods like butter, eggs, whole milk, lard and coconut oil to their rightful place in the human diet. And, finally, modern research is catching up.
“If the nutritional and medical establishments had taken the approach of Weston Price and endeavored to unravel the causes of heart disease by studying the diets and lifestyles of populations that were immune to the disease, it is unlikely the diet-heart hypothesis would ever have emerged,” says Chris Masterjohn, PhD.
Masterjohn, a nutrition scientist, is currently working alongside Dr. Fred Kummerow at the Burnsides Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois; his research focuses on the fat-soluble vitamins and the role of saturated fat in the prevention of heart disease.
Dr. Weston A. Price conducted research on the foods of isolated healthy peoples whose diets were rich in animal fats, such as Australian aborigines and the Seminoles of the Florida Everglades. While the latest version of the USDA dietary guidelines states that saturated fats are empty calories, Price found animal fats provide vitamins that are key to human health, such as true vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin K and vitamin E. Dr. Price emphasized the role these fat-soluble vitamins play in increasing nutrient absorption. Because of this, Price dubbed these vitamins “activators.” These fat-soluble vitamins are also necessary for hormone production, normal growth, neurological function, and protection against chronic disease such as cancer and heart disease.
“While this new research may lead to suggestions that it is OK to eat butter once in a while, the truth is that we should include foods like butter, whole milk, cheese and egg yolks in our diets every day,” says Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. “These foods are critical for good health, and as Americans have avoided these traditional sources of saturated fat, their health has declined.”
Consumer education resources on the health benefits of butter, coconut oil and other traditional fats are available on the Weston A. Price Foundation website, The Skinny on Fats.