Monday, January 23, 2012

Vitamin K2: The Missing Link to Perfect Health

Almost a century ago, in the early part of the 20th century, a dentist named Weston A. Price performed some of the most important research in the history of nutrition and health science.  As a dentist, he was concerned about the epidemic of dental deformities, like crooked teeth and cavities, so he set out to find traditional societies all over the globe didn't suffer from such problems.  Sure enough, he found several "primitive" societies isolated from the industrialized world who, despite a complete lack of dental hygiene, had perfectly straight teeth and little to no tooth decay.  And beyond that, chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease were completely absent.  He showed that, like all other animals, humans are healthy and robust when they eat, move, and live the way they're designed.  Then, he watched as these healthy societies became civilized, adopted white flour and sugar, and their health declined. 

Traditional Swiss: ornery because they got all them teeth but no toothbrush
Modernized Swiss: even West Virginia doesn't want them

That is Weston A. Price in a nutshell, but I encourage you to read his book "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" for the full story.  Although the societies Price studied ate a variety of diets, he noticed something that they all shared... all of these diets were particularly high in three fat-soluble vitamins:  A, D, and something he called "Activator X".  He determined that these three vitamins were critical and worked in synergy for tooth and bone formation, as well as general health.  After returning to America, Price applied what he had learned on his own patients.  He used a combination of high-vitamin butter oil (Activator X) and cod liver oil (A and D) to successfully prevent and reverse dental cavities in many of his patients.  Pretty amazing huh?  These three vitamins, when used in conjunction, can reverse cavities.  Fast forward to today... has anyone in the medical profession ever heard of this research?  Probably not.  To them, crooked teeth are just genetic, and the only way to fix a cavity is to get a filling.  Oh how wrong they are...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Skim Milk is Stupid

As promised, in today's article I'll be focusing on dairy fat.  Full-fat dairy has been on the shit-list now for several decades because of its high saturated fat content; 2/3 of its fatty acid profile is saturated.  Since the creation of the very first dietary recommendations set forth by the U.S. government, we've been told to avoid anything high in saturated fat because it will clog our arteries and kill us.  (In case you missed it, your arteries will be fine.)   Well, people have listened:  we now consume approximately 1/3 the whole milk we did in 1970, and our butter has largely been replaced with margarine (see below).  We clearly consume far less dairy fat today than we have in the past, but that's not a good thing.  Not only does the research show no connection between dairy fat consumption and chronic disease, but grass-fed dairy fat appears to be highly beneficial, and may even actively prevent arterial plaque buildup.  Welcome to the fascinating world of dairy fat...  it's time to embrace whole milk and butter once again.

Let's open it up with a meta-analysis.  This one, done by Dr. Ness and colleagues in the UK, examined 10 cohort studies in which the consumption of milk, or the intake of calcium from dairy sources, has been related to cardiovascular disease (1).  Their conclusion?  "Cohort studies provide no convincing evidence that milk is harmful. While there still could be residual confounding from unidentified factors, the studies, taken together, suggest that milk drinking may be associated with a small but worthwhile reduction in heart disease and stroke risk."  So the people who drank the most milk experienced reductions in heart disease and stroke risk.  Sounds great, but with a reduction in cardiovascular risk like that, they must have been drinking low-fat and skim milk right?  No sir/ma'am.  As the researchers state in the conclusion of the article, because all of the reviewed studies were set up at times when low-fat milk was unavailable, "it would seem reasonable to assume that the risk estimates obtained relate largely to the consumption of whole milk."  BOOM!  Whole milk associated with a consistent reduction in cardiovascular disease?? You don't say...

But that's not it... here's another one showing dairy fat prevents cardiovascular disease (2); this one says dairy fat promotes healthy LDL and HDL levels (3); this one says dairy fat reduces your risk for diabetes, keeps you lean, and lowers your triglycerides (4); and this one shows butter is wayyy better than margarine (5), even though the researchers wouldn't quite admit it (6).  Blah blah blah etc etc etc, the bottom line is that these benefits are the result of dairy fat.  Not fat-free dairy.  Not even low-fat dairy.  Full-fat dairy.  Whole milk, real cheese, full-fat yogurt, and butter.  Dairy fat is good for you.  It is not the devil we're led to believe it is.  But there's still more to the story... because there's something even better than dairy fat out there.  Meet grass-fed dairy...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why You Don't Need to Worry About Saturated Fat

Ohh saturated fat, where do I even begin?  You've been vilified for decades by the likes of the USDA, the American Heart Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association... new name, same haters).  Foods high in saturated fat will clog our arteries and kill us, they say.  In fact, in the newest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the USDA has taken the war on saturated fats to a new level with the creation of a new category known as "SoFAS".  While that may look like it was typed by a 14-year-old girl on Twitter, it is in fact an acronym for "solid fats and added sugars", and the guidelines recommend we avoid them like the plague.  With the creation of this new category, traditional sources of saturated fat like grass-fed butter and coconut oil are now considered equal to processed junk like Crisco and candy corn.  Seriously.  This is what our government is telling us.

But why?  Why do they think saturated fat is going to clog our arteries and kill us?  There are three parts to this hypothesis, and they go like this...
  1. Saturated fat in the diet increases the cholesterol levels in your blood
  2. High cholesterol in the blood is associated with heart disease
  3. So, high saturated fat intake leads to heart disease
Sounds good right?  Not quite.  This is the circa-1990, total-cholesterol-is-everything, eat-more-low-fat-cookies-and-throw-out-the-yolk theory of heart disease.  I hate that theory of heart disease.  In this article, I'll attempt to disprove the first and third parts of this:  whether or not saturated fat leads to high cholesterol and/or heart disease.  I'll ignore the second part, because it's a little off-topic and it becomes irrelevant with the collapse of the first part.  Plus I've covered the cholesterol thing in the past (1, 2, 3).  Here we go...