Good fat, bad fat.

There was an interesting publication in the British Medical Journal last week on the topic of saturated vs poly-unsaturated fats. Apparently, data from the Sydney Diet Heart study that has been “lost” was rediscovered, analyzed and published. The original study was a randomized controlled trial where the intervention group was asked to substitute polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat. The subjects had proven cardiovascular disease. As it turned out, the oil they were using was high in omega-6 content (linoleic acid – LA). When the newly found data were analyzed, it turned out that the intervention group had higher all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. It is noteworthy, that the n-6 LA group did, as predicted, lower their cholesterol which was supposed to lower the CVD risk yet their mortality rate went up.

The authors propose that a process independent of our paradigm of high cholesterol and heart disease can explain this finding. When linoleic acid is exposed to free radicals, the result is the production of oxidized LA metabolites (OXLAMS). It turns out that OXLAMS are highly implicated the formation of atherosclerotic plaque and in virtually every process involved in atherogenesis. OXLAMS are more abundant in oxidized LDL which is more atherogenic than normal LDL. Smoking and excess alcohol are sources of high oxidative stress and, in the study, the smokers and drinkers did have higher risk ratios.

What to take away from this new (old) evidence? It certainly reinforces what I have been telling people for awhile now, that you should focus on reducing your intake of omega-6 fatty acids. The major sources of these in our diet are the vegetable oils. Olive oil is fine. Canola has omega-6 but also has omega-3 and the balance of these two may be an important mitigating factor. Many people have a problem with canola because of the amount of processing and the risks of oxidized fatty acid consumption. My take on it is that, while not ideal, a little of this oil in your diet is not going to upset the apple cart. Olive oil is far and away the preferable oil for non-cooking applications. For cooking, I am squarely in favour of the saturated fatty acids like butter, lard, coconut oil and bacon fat. Saturates are much more tolerant of heat and are, therefore, the preferred cooking fats.

If you are convinced that omega-6 oils should be avoided, you will need to be vigilant with labels. A lot of processed and pre-prepared foods use the cheap vegetable oils like corn oil, soya, and safflower. Unfortunately, many food outlets cook with these, as well. This is one argument for avoiding the fast food outlets as much as possible.

The research paper also included information from an updated meta-analysis of trials that substituted n-6 LA for saturated fat. Again, when the newly analyzed data was included in the updated meta-analysis, there was no benefit. It appears, however, that when a combination of omega-6 and omega-3 is substituted for saturated fat there is a reduction in CVD risk. It was from these kinds of trials that the generalized advice to substitute vegetable oil for saturated fat was supported. In light of the new evidence that n-6 LA is actually harmful, it seems incredibly sloppy to have advised people to use this oil without clarity in terms of which PUFA was doing what. The evidence that omega-3 is preventative is still standing, although that is being somewhat questioned now, too.

All this suggests to me that once the anti-fat bandwagon got rolling, people weren’t too discerning in terms of the quality of the evidence as long as it was supportive of that dogma. The Sydney study was done in 1978. One wonders how much harm has been done with these cavalier recommendations since then.

The role of oxidative stress is an important factor here. All the evidence I have seen supports that idea that a very low carb diet lowers oxidative stress. So, bottom line, get your carbs as low as you can and avoid those cheap, nasty vegetable oils.

10 thoughts on “Good fat, bad fat.

  1. Hi,
    I have been using Camelina oil (wild flax seed oil) along with butter, olive oil and coconut oil. It’s high in Omega-3 and lower in Omega-6.
    It’s from our prairies and if I can believe what I read it should be good for us.
    Keep up the great work.
    Sharon Kenney

  2. “So, bottom line, get your carbs as low as you can and avoid those cheap, nasty vegetable oils.” Very succinct, Dr. Jay! I think you would agree that minimizing wheat and fructose are part of the formula for healthy eating as well.

    Thank you for publicizing the BMJs re-examination of this old study. I agree with your surmise about the way that “science” (as GT would call it) worked at the time. I am convinced that continued vigilence and questioning will turn this mess around.

    You are a breath of fresh air in this community.

  3. Check out how Canola oil is made, compared to how butter is made, and many will keep well away from Canola oil.

    I think you will agree Canola production is closer to the petro-chem industry than food production. Regarding scientific trial data being lost re. fats, the same has gone on for decades regarding sugar. Only now is the truth slowly emerging, it’s a health hazard in the quantities being consumed. Just look at the massive damage limitation exercise being mounted by the likes of Coca Cola et al.

    Eddie Mitchell

  4. For the past couple of years I have have had osteoarthritis in a foot joint due to a sports injury years ago. For a while now I have noticed a strong correlation between the level of background pain and the omega 6 and omega 3 content in my diet.

    If I have significant omega 6 in any form (canola oil, too much avocado, too much almonds, etc.) then it gets very sore. When I minimize omega 6, the condition is noticeable but not very painful. Omega 3 capsules of fish oil or krill oil help somewhat in the absence of omega 6, but are not enough to offset the effect of omega 6. However, what I recently discovered on our ski trip is that when I have fermented cod liver oil instead of capsules and minimize omega 6, I get no pain whatsoever. It is like a day without clouds. Also, I noticed I had excellent muscle recovery despite exhausting days of skiing with no conditioning in advance of the trip (too busy at work). My legs were rubbery and burning ending the day with the 7 km, 1600 metre vertical, peak to creek run (lagging behind our gracious host and 13-year old son), but I was good to go the next day and did it again the next morning without stopping. Loads of DHA from the cod liver oil must replenish the oxidized HUFA from the endurance exercise. (I did not have fish oil capsules during the ski trip, just the fermented cod liver oil.)

    Later in the trip I had run out of the cod liver oil and switched to fish oil caps. A friend took us out for Peking duck. I had a generous serving of bok choy and soon my foot was killing me. They must have used soya oil or some other omega 6 heavy oil for the vegetables. Within a couple of hours of eating my foot went from zero pain to feeling like a nail had been driven through it. Once again, omega 6 trumps fish oil caps. I had had black cod the previous meal, so omega 6 seems to trump natural source omega 3 as well, in terms of causing inflammation.

  5. In case anyone hasn’t yet downloaded a copy, this link downloads a pdf of the open access paper Food for Thought: Have We Been Giving the Wrong Dietary Advice? in which Zoe Harcombe points out Ancel Keys was using a somewhat misleading definition of “Saturated Fats” in his studies which have resulted in the Lipid Hypothesis and unjustified fear of natural saturated fats.

    Press release here UWS Research Gives Food for Thought Regarding The Way We View Calories for those who don’t like full text papers.

  6. Dr. Jay

    I am just now able and have become financially secure enough and have acquired enough experience in obesity/diabetes disease, as they relate to sugar and hybrid carbohydrates, to now begin my “live” presentations of “My Big Fat Diet”with Dr. Jay Wortman, Native American Doctor.

    Presentations with showings and seminars throughout my immediate area where I live here in Minnesota and wherever demands may or may not take me internationally and globally throughout our nations as well as the entire world.

    I don’t expect they will allow me into schools at this time with such rubbish and hogwash but I am presently able to rent halls and meeting rooms and have in my possession the documentary copy that allows for public showings and viewings of MY Big Fat Diet.

    A “firestorm” is what should happen here but what will in actuality happen will probably be a very small but steady and slow and low burning flame with constance and visible smoke and fire with light and smell that can be seen and heard for miles and miles around.

    Yours is the spark that it all began.

    Eventually to be seen and ignited by the entire world.

    Not because I said so, and not because you said so, but because this is the actual truth.

    The truth and nothing but the truth.

    The whole truth.

    The actual truth.

    A completely unknown truth.

    Altzimers Disease (I can’t get the spell check to work on my computer) is not a complete known at this point and time but has many indicators plainly pointing in it’s direction, along with many other mental and physical diseases caused by sugar and hybrid carbohydrate addiction.

    Mans Modern Invention.

    Obesity and diabetes and sugar and carbohydrate addiction are absolutes that include, every single one of us.

    Fat, skinny, and average people alike.

    Black, white, green, or brown.

    Rich or poor.

    Over seven billion stimulant addicts on this earth today and growing steadily day by day.

    Have a great cruise with your little one and say hello to everyone for me.

    I am completely ignored by this entire community, yet I hold key knowledge and components in this ongoing study and tragedy.

    Again have a great cruise and the best to you and your family.

    Thank you, Tom Bunnell

  7. Hi Dr Jay,
    I emailed you last year hoping for help with my and my husbands cramps which began with our stay in Italia. We were taking magnesium at the time but it wasn’t working and you suggested slow mag. Used the magnesium chloride but it didn’t make a difference. I was not able to access the Slow Mag until we got back to Australia and once I did (USA being the only place to purchase) my husbands cramps finally abated. My cramps got better without having to use the Slow Mag though, just more doses more frequently.
    My question is this; Why the sudden and dramatic need for Magnesium after being low carb for 2 years? It wasn’t just Italy because the cramps continued back in Australia until my husband got the slow mag. Mine just eased off gradually.
    Did we use up our stores in those 2 years and hadn’t been replenished enough with our diet ? I diet is optimal and we supplemented with Magnesium Citrate since the beginning. All just seems so odd.
    If you have any idea I would be grateful as it seems so strange and I am very curious.

  8. I have been on a very low carb diet for 6 months now. In that time I’ve read Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, Dr. Mary Enig’s Eat Fat Lose Fat, Volk and Finney’s “Science of Low Carb Living” and a few other books also.

    All agree on the low carb approach and all promote good fats. I use Cod Liver Oil, Olive oil and Coconut oil as well as bacon fat. My lipids are normal, my HDL is up, my triglycerides are down, my LDL is down, My A1c is 5.1 and my blood pressure is 101 over 65 with a pulse of 50. I’ve lost 30 lbs in the last six months, most of it in the first month. I measure BP and BG every day. To get more salt in my system I make a drink from a beef or chicken bouillon cube and add 1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil to the drink. I usually do this around 3 pm each day. I’m in ketosis most of the time with a ketone level of around 2.0 (I have a Ketone meter).

    I do not eat bread, potato, pasta, rice or fruit (except 4-6 blueberries in sour cream for breakfast). I feel much better and I am also motivated to exercise every day. I use the Tabata approach for exercise because I do not have a great deal of time in the mornings). Consult with your doctor before doing Tabata.

    I was so pleased to listen to yet another proponent of the VLCD approach. I was especially pleased to hear that a VLCD does not have to be short term. I have sent this information to all my friends and family who are diabetic. It is such good news.

    Recently, I was discussing the value of fats with a work colleague and we were discussing Canola oil. I had read that the food industry does partially hydrogenate Canola oil and so it can get a bad rap. CANOLA is 7% saturated, 61% monounsaturated (oleic acid) and 21% polyunsaturated (linoleic acid). I prefer not to use and prefer coconut oil or bacon fat for frying eggs for example. I make my own pumpkin ice cream for dessert, 4 eggs, heavy cream, nutmeg, stevia and a tin of pumpkin. I have to “nuke” the small containers for 20 seconds to eat the ice cream but it’s a great treat to look forward to after supper.

    Thank you for the great blog. I will follow posts with interest.

  9. Interestingly, the edible oils industry has quietly, through selective breeding, reduced the omega-6 content of sunflower, soybean, canola, and corn seeds. The new seed oil varieties are higher in oleic acid and slightly lower in saturated fat. I imagine this innovation will eventually make the food supply less toxic with a concurrent improvement in the public health.

Leave a Reply