Is Fat Bad?

People who know me know that I am forever grumbling, “Thousands of years from now, scientists will shake their heads and say, ‘too bad about those people back at the end of the twentieth century. They didn’t eat enough fat.'”

The obesity epidemic began around 1977, the year the low-fat diet was first recommended. It was also around the same time that I had my first farm, cow, goats, pigs and chickens. I guess I didn’t get the memo. Our diet included whole milk, red meat, tons of butter, cheese and lard-infused pies.

While trans fats are still on the black list, the Annals of Internal Medicine study released in the March 18, 2014, Vol. 160(6) issue reveals that “Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.” The view that omega-3 fatty acids protect us from heart disease has proved to be inconclusive. The journal article also finds that lack of saturated fat can be harmful.

Anahad O’Connor summarized the study for the New York Times on March 17.

The winners, besides us, are the farmers who provide us with healthful beef, pork, lamb and other meats. Hopefully, the losers will be the nutrition “experts,” supplement manufacturers and purveyors of multi-secretive-ingredient processed foods. The days of being laughed at when I advise acquaintances not to eat that yellow glop they are substituting for butter and the white whipped chemical topping they are using instead of whipped cream will soon be over. I will carry a copy of this study and whip it out and wave it in glee at every opportunity.

The study clearly reflects that in countries where the highest quantities of saturated fat are consumed, heart disease rates are low. While the low rate of heart disease in France, which consumes high amounts of fat (think Julia Childs and her buttery French cooking) has often been called a paradox, France is not alone.

“Low-fat” does not mean healthful. Processed foods that are loaded with sugar, but which contain low or no fat, have been marketed and marked up in price on the backs of consumer victims who were brainwashed into thinking that they were buying the best for themselves and their families. Looking forward, maybe we will see some labeling, as well as ingredient changes. I sometimes think that our constant obsession with food actually leads to overeating. More “eat to live” may be in order.

In my lifetime only a couple of doctors have even asked about my eating habits. Food is medicine, but often it’s easier to prescribe a pill. Other medicine that is completely within our own control is the management of stress and weight, and this should be easier if we have less to worry about while enjoying a nice piece of steak or the natural sugars of a homemade apple pie.

Now that we can return to eating our ham and eggs for breakfast, we should put the sins of the past behind us and work toward producing the most healthful meat and dairy products possible. How much healthier can we be if we ensure that the diets of our animals are also cleaned up? This means promoting grass-fed, antibiotic-free meat animals, raised as locally as possible.

Sheila Velazquez lives and writes in Northwest Massachusetts. Her work is informed by decades of experience with unions, agriculture, public health, politics and her support of populism. She welcomes contact by email: Read other articles by Sheila.