This week was really a continuing lesson in the fact that everything needs to be considered in context. I learned a lot in class but I also learned a lot outside of class too. I’d like to share both with you, so I will be posting two parts for What I Learned: Week 4. This is part 2 and is focused on things I learned outside of the classroom. (Click to check out Part 1)
Two things led me to do some extra-curricular research last week: 1) wanting to throw my text book across the room because of how they talk about fats, particularly saturated fatty acids; and 2) a spammer posting on my site.
1) I read an article titled “Saturated fat consumption may not be the main cause of increased blood lipid levels” by C.B. Dias, et al in Medical Hypotheses, 2013. This article suggests that we need to look at saturated fatty acids (SFA) in context with other fats. It points to the fact that most of the main studies that we use as “proof” of the negative effects of dietary SFA consumption do not account for the make-up of the total fact consumption. The article suggests that perhaps it is the ratio of fats that is causing the issue and postulates that when consumed with higher levels of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), also generally referred to as Omega-3, saturated fat does not have the same negative effect on increased blood lipid levels. The article also suggests that n-3 PUFAs are better utilized by the body in the presence of SFAs. There were no actual experiments conducted for this article, but the ideas postulated are very interesting and serve to further challenge the idea of studying dietary factors in isolation (If you’d like to look at the article let me know and I can email it to you.)
2) After reading the article above and thinking a lot about the recent fascination with DHA, I wanted to find out what the total fat, omega-3 and DHA content might be in grass-fed meat and whether or not grass-feeding really makes a difference, both in the meat itself and in how our bodies use it. The article I read is called “Red meat from animals offered a grass diet increases plasma and platelet n-3 PUFA in healthy consumers” by A.J. McAfee, et al in the British Journal of Nutrition, 2011. This study appears to have been well constructed; it was randomized and double-blinded. It also included healthy people, both male and female, excluding those with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or those on medication or taking dietary supplements containing PUFA. This study discovered that the plasma and platelet levels of n-3 PUFA, DHA and EPA were all elevated in the group consuming meat (beef and lamb) from animals fed grass in the 6 weeks prior to slaughter. I hope that others see this study and attempt to repeat it, because it seems to show that eating animals that eat what they are supposed to eat, results in a healthier human and corrects a lot of the issues that we are told to correct – increase omega-3s, DHA and EPA. This is just one study, so it cannot stand alone, but it does raise some interesting questions and gives at least a little scientific credence to the idea that how our food is produced ultimately effects the health of our bodies. (If you’d like to look at the article let me know and I can email it to you.)
3) So a few days ago, I had two comments on my last What I Learned post. They were identical and both just included a link to another website. They were both supposedly posted by “Google.” Before I really thought too much about it, I checked the link out because the URL name seemed legit – it had Berkeley in it and was about homogenized milk. But as I looked at it further (and got confirmation from a friend at Google) I realized that I had been spammed. While this is an unfortunate thing, it actually gave me an opportunity to look into what I had said about homogenized milk, do a little more research and have a further conversation with my professor; it also gave me a chance to look into the credibility of a claim. The link directed me to a website that seemed to be well supported and scientific – it is supposedly attached to UC Berkeley. But if that is the case then why is the website a .com and not a .edu? Also, the copyright at the bottom is by a company called Remedy Health Media, which seems to be involved with putting out a lot of different “health related” publications and is involved in advertising (in fact it is very easy to find the “advertise with us” section.) None of this is to say that the information automatically shouldn’t be trusted, but that in a case like this it should be viewed with some skepticism. I was also greatly put off by the way it was written. It cited one study in the 80s and then claimed that the matter was closed. It also referred to “myths” - plural - about homogenized milk and yet only focused on one specific enzyme, xanthine oxidase (XO), and did not touch on any of the other possible issues with homogenization, like how it seems to effect the casin and whey proportions in the fat globule. There are definitely issues with the original data concerning XO, and perhaps it has no effect, but I do not think that we can definitely close the door on whether or not the homogenization of milk could have an impact on the body. And whether or not any of these things are a factor or not, my question still stands, what would these studies look like if they used non-homogenized milk? I appreciated the opportunity to further my understanding of this topic even though it was brought on by a spammer!
Is any of this new to you? Does any of it make you mad or make you think about things in a different way?