What about cholesterol?
Just like fat, cholesterol is not necessarily a bad thing. It is an essential, fat-like substance that forms the basis for the production of hormones, bile acids and the body’s very own vitamin D – the vitamin that most Dutch people chronically lack! In addition to dietary intake, the body can also produce cholesterol and recycle it in the liver. The peculiar thing is that the amount of cholesterol you eat hardly affects cholesterol levels measured in the blood. This makes the classic recommendation to only “eat a maximum of two eggs per week” obsolete.
What about omega-3?
At the end of the 1970s, a study was published in the renowned scientific journal The Lancet, showing that cardiovascular disease occurred significantly less frequently in the Inuit compared to western people. Researchers compared a group of Inuit with a Danish control group and they looked at a large variety of physiological blood markers. It was the slower rate of blood clotting in the Inuit that caught the researchers’ attention. Also, they found high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of the Inuit people. And so, the researchers concluded that high levels of omega-3 in the blood would lead to a slower blood clotting time, reducing the risk of heart attack.
From that moment on, it became popular to eat fish or, alternatively, to take fish oil supplements at least twice a week. Recent data gathered from a very large group of individuals (112,000 individuals) show that this conclusion is not necessarily accurate. On the contrary, very few – if any – benefits in cardiovascular health were observed in the individuals who frequently ate omega-3 fatty acids, compared to those who didn’t. Researchers concluded, therefore:
“We can be confident in the findings of this review which go against the popular belief that long-chain omega 3 supplements protect the heart. This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects”
You are what you eat?
Whereas vegetable food sources can contain a lot of saturated fats (think of coconut fat), animal foods can be rich in unsaturated fats. For example, you just read that fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is largely the result of the algae and seaweeds that fish consume. Often, the balance of unsaturated to saturated fats depends on the environment in which the animal is reared. For example, Jamón Ibérico is ham from a special kind of pig. What many people don’t know is that the undomesticated Ibérico pig mainly feeds on acorns. And acorns contain a whole lot of unsaturated fats. These fats eventually end up in the animal’s muscles, which makes the meat of true Ibérico pigs rich in unsaturated fatty acids.
A couple of times a year I go hunting with a good friend of mine. We have many pigs living here in the forests of South Limburg, and just across the border in the Ardennes. Once, a couple of years ago, we were out hunting and I told him about Jamón Ibérico. I soon got the question in return: “What do you think our own wild boars eat?” I honestly had no idea. My friend told me that, during autumn and winter, our local wild boars feed mainly on beechnuts, a similar source of unsaturated fats as the acorns. Their feeding habits give the meat of these wild boars a very tender taste.
So take note that it is not true that unsaturated fats come only from vegetable sources and that saturated fats occur only in animal foods. In the real world, it is not helpful to take an overly simple view of food, by focusing only on nutrients and substances. The real world is the world of real food: delicious & nutritious!
About The doc.
Dr. Ludidi is author of the bestselling book The Dr. Ludidi Method of Intermittent Fasting.
Furthermore the doc. Is known from his online coaching program and his work with multiple world champions on behalf of lifestyle and general health.
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