Edible Oil Industry Urged to Promote Positive Findings on Saturated Fats
Reversing the Anti-Saturated Fat Campaign
By: David Brown
As a business model for the food and beverage industries, does it make sense to market products that destroy the health of the consumer? I ask this question because, for about a hundred years the edible oils industry and the food manufactures who utilize Omega-6 industrial seed oils in their products have been doing just that. More recently, fast food outlets and manufacturers of snack foods have also boosted consumer intake of omega-6s.
The omega-6 problem dates from around 1911 when Proctor and Gamble introduced Crisco - short for crystallized cotton seed oil. At the time, most housewives and bakers were using lard, butter, coconut oil, and beef tallow for baking and frying. As Crisco, margarine, and non-hydrogenated seed oils gradually replaced the traditional fats, heart disease began it's meteoric rise.
To be sure, increased consumption of added sugars has also played a role in heart disease. But whereas that facet of the problem is finally under investigation, the omega-6 hazard has yet to receive similar attention, largely, I think, due to the highly publicized notion that saturated fats clog arteries. As Dr. Laura Corr remarked in a 1997 letter published in the European Heart Journal, "Most national and international recommendations for the prevention of heart disease...have made dietary restriction of total and saturated fats and of cholesterol the primary advice...in relation to all other forms of management. Unfortunately, the available trials provide little support for such recommendations and it may be that far more valuable messages for the dietary and non-dietary prevention of coronary heart disease are getting lost in the immoderate support of the low fat diet."
Until recently, the edible oils industry was able to benefit from the anti-saturated fat campaign. But now that trans fats are believed to be worse than saturated fats, manufacturers of baking and frying fats, at great expense, are scrambling to develop alternatives to trans fats. As United Biscuits fats and oils development manager Simon Roulston noted, "... reformulation efforts would cost the industry millions and would involve a big technical undertaking. Saturated fat reductions are not easy... some products we're looking at... just won't withstand some of the changes."
So here's what I suggest. If the food manufacturing industry were to use it's considerable political influence and financial clout to reverse the saturated fat mistake, the baking industry's problems would be solved because the edible oils sector would be free to formulate, from industrial seed oils, trans fat-free products with fatty acid profiles similar to healthy traditional fats. Through selective breeding, producers of oil seed products have already managed to drastically reduce the omega-6 content of Soybean, sunflower, and Canola oils. For all practical purposes, the new products resemble olive oil. By blending totally hydrogenated fat with high oleic acid seed oils, the desired baking and frying characteristics could be achieved with certainty, at little expense, and with technical ease. While I'm not suggesting these alternative products would be as healthy as traditional saturated fats, the lower Omega 6 content would make them considerably less unhealthy then what's currently on supermarket shelves.
Panic generated by the growing pandemic of obesity, diabetes, noncommunicable diseases, and depression is another reason to put a stop to anti-saturated fat sentiment and publicize the omega-6 hazard. The Danish tax on saturated fats is a prime example of the mischief that can be wrought when health experts urge politicians to formulate public health policy based on misinterpreted scientific findings. Ironically, in neighboring Sweden, consumption of butter is increasing, partly because the Swedish government recognizes the health benefits of saturated fats.
About the Author: David Brown, a carpenter aged 64, studies nutritional controversies and corresponds with scientists, health professionals, politicians, and journalists. A 1977 back injury was the initial impetus for learning about proper nutrition. More recently, concern about the deterioration in the public health keeps him busy writing articles and messages with hopes of helping to correct mistakes in the U.S. Government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
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