A pandemic has gripped the world, and it is particularly severe in America. It is not caused by bacteria or viruses, and it is not making people visibly sick. Yet it has spread relentlessly for decades and now affects most people on the planet. It targets the mind in particular, and has only gotten worse in our “information age” of mass media. Its effects were once subtle, but as the pandemic spread they have become obvious. People generally realize that they are affected, yet they rarely take steps to free themselves of the disease. The disease has many names: “misinformation”, “fake news”, “garbage in, garbage out” to name a few. The cure is in critically short supply currently: critical thinking is an almost forgotten and infrequently used practice.
You may have heard that high fat diets are bad for you. You may have heard that high fat diets are good for you. One of the laws of logic demands that both cannot be true as stated — two completely contradictory statements cannot both be true. Yet we are swayed back and forth with statements like this, not knowing what to believe. The answer requires digging deeper rather than simply accepting whatever statement we hear from the supposed experts. In the case of fat, there are real dangers to certain types of fat, but others are actually beneficial!
Cancer and fat
A study published in Cell, conducted at the Harvard Medical School, found that “tumors grew more rapidly in animals on high-fat diets compared to those on normal diets.” It specifically finds that immune system cell “CD8* T” population is reduced inside tumors of those on a high fat diet, so the immune system is less effective in fighting the cancer there. Portions of the study summary, however, refer to obesity as the problem: “Obesity allows cancer cells to outcompete tumor-killing immune cells in a battle for fuel.”
One way to make sense of this potentially confusing study is to consider other studies. The link between cancer and obesity is well documented. Research from the Sloan Kettering Institute, published in Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, found that at least some cancer grows “preferentially” near adipose (fat) tissue. The hypothesis for this behavior is that cancer requires a lot of “fuel” to grow rapidly, and fat is a very dense fuel source. They found that more than half of metastases in their study of melanoma appeared near adipocytes. Other studies show that obesity results in high levels of chronic inflammation, which promotes cancer. For the Harvard study to find that obesity promotes cancer ties in with other evidence. So far, so good.
High fat diets
Another way to look at a published article is to look deeper at the terms. A “high fat diet” is not defined in the article summary. In a previous newsletter about the health benefits of avocado, we looked at this nearly “perfect” food which contains monounsaturated fats. These fats promote lower cholesterol, lower overall inflammation, and do not promote obesity. A study in PubMed, from the National Library of Medicine, found “significant correlations” between intake of dairy and animal fat with most forms of cancer. These saturated fats are well-documented to favor and even trigger cancer development.
All fats are not equal, and some fats are clearly beneficial: certain plant fats in their fresh, raw, unprocessed form are generally health-promoting and anti-cancer. Not even all plant fats are healthful: canola oil, which is so unstable in its raw state that any you get at the store is likely heated, hydrogenated, or otherwise stabilized for shelf life, can be inflammatory. Plus a very high percentage of canola oil is produced from genetically engineered crops.
You can look into many more readily available studies to back up the statement that certain fresh raw plant fats, such as avocado, olive, and coconut, are health-promoting and generally anti-cancer, especially when combined with a healthier lifestyle.
So which fats are included in the “high fat diets” that spread tumor development in the Harvard study? The published summary did not specify. You could probably dig deeper, but since the article only specifies a “high fat diet”, it is quite likely that the high fat diet mentioned is a typical diet consisting of part animal fat, and plenty of processed fats.
Rather than swallowing the premise that high fat diets lead to cancer, a discriminating health pursuer, such as yourself, would look closer at other evidence to make a conclusion before jumping into a low fat, high carb and/or high protein diet. Such a switch could be harmful. Making no decision and eating the Standard American Diet, or following mainstream or convenience diets, might harm your health rather than improve it. A high fat diet, including only the “good fats”, looks like a great option according to a lot of research.
The Harvard study also refers to a high fat environment associated with obesity. Further, it states that the high fat diet fed to mice in the study led to “increased body weight and other obesity-related changes.” This also implies that the fats supplied to the mice were of the “bad” variety, which could lead to weight gain. According to a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, who specifies which good fats that he is considering, states, “Fat consumption does not cause weight gain. To the contrary, it might actually help us shed a few pounds.” He cites numerous research studies comparing results of low carb, high fat diets to those of low-fat, high carb diets: the high fat diets, when involving the good fats, show better results. Yet, the Harvard study says that the high fat diet in the study led to weight gain. In any case, the mice in the study were overweight, and gaining weight, and in that environment the cancer was shown to cause a reduction in the CD8+ T cell population, thus aiding the growth of the cancer tumor. We can safely take from the study that the environment leading to obesity is cancer-promoting.
Critical thinking is critical to your health
In today’s Information Age, we are buffeted by claims and studies from all directions. Articles will not always present enough data for you to answer a question such as, “does all fat cause the results in the study, or just certain fats?” A study may start with a certain premise, and then have an “agenda” to support that premise. With so many complex factors influencing health and disease, even the best research has to limit its scope, and more research may be needed to get the full story. Seek the truth and keep it simple. If you look deeply, you will see that taking the right steps will drastically improve your health, if you know what they are. Arm yourself with truth, and put it to use!
Dr. Nemec’s Comments:
It is very easy to know what is good for you and what is not. Just bring it back to nature. Would you eat organic home grown organic corn or would you have highly processed and refined (with chemicals added from the refining process) corn oil? Would you eat cooked grass fed beef hamburger with grilled onion and seasoned salt added for flavor, or go out and take a bite out of the cow grazing on the grass? Remember you were designed to eat food in the living state, not the cooked state. What appeals more to your cells: a fresh cucumber filled with enzymes and phytonutrients, eaten from the vine grown in your garden, or pickles that have been soaked in acid and can be eaten for years without going rancid? Raw and living plant fats are ideal for promoting an anti-inflammatory effect in the body as well as kicking on fat metabolism and weight loss. When is comes to health and disease, choose your fats and your foods wisely — choose living/raw.
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