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Eet vet word slank

Eet vet word slank gepubliceerd januari 2013

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Trick and Treat:
How 'healthy eating' is making us ill
Trick and Treat cover

"A great book that shatters so many of the nutritional fantasies and fads of the last twenty years. Read it and prolong your life."
Clarissa Dickson Wright

Natural Health & Weight Loss cover

"NH&WL may be the best non-technical book on diet ever written"
Joel Kauffman, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, PA

Our love affair with fat — a historical perspective


We are told that we should not eat animal fat — that it's bad for us. But all cultures all over the world from the arctic to the equator have eaten animal fats throughout many millennia. This is evidenced in written records over the last several thousand years. In this article I want to give you a historical perspective of our love of fat foods. For, let there be no doubt in your mind, "Fat", as Professor John Yudkin once wrote, "is the most valuable food known to Man". It is. This is why.

Let's start with the Bible. While I do not regard the Bible as a scientific work, it does tell us what the peoples of the Middle East believed two- to three-thousand years ago and what they liked to eat.

The first indication that fat was prized in the Middle East comes in Genesis, with the story of Cain and Abel and the account of the first recorded offering to Jehovah.

'And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

'And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.

'And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.

'But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.'

This story tells us two things: Firstly it represents the preferences of Jehovah and the preferences of the Hebrew people themselves when they were living in the region of Babylon and Egypt 3,000 or 4,000 years ago — meat and fat was regarded as far superior to vegetables; secondly, the inclusion of the words 'and of the fat thereof' means that Abel didn't only bring fat meat but also fat separately as an added, superior, gift.

Further on in Genesis 45:17-18 we learn by inference that both Jews and Egyptians thought well of a high fat diet: 'And Pharaoh said unto Joseph . . . "Take your father and your households, and come unto me; and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land".' And in Isaiah 25:6: 'And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things . . . of fat things full of marrow.'

From other passages of the Old Testament we know that Jews were thinking of fat mutton, or of mutton fat, when they spoke of 'the fat of the land'. The Bible tells us that mutton fat was considered the most delicious portion of any meat, and the tail and adjacent part the most exquisite morsel in the whole body. Biblical sheep were the Fat-Tailed variety, still found in Syria and Palestine today.

The New Testament also has similar references, and we learn that beef fat was also held in high esteem: when the prodigal son returned home, his father didn't welcome him with an ordinary calf, he 'slew a fatted calf'.

Across the Mediterranean from the Holy lands, the Greeks too, liked their meat fat and believed that their heroes preferred it so. You won't find a kind word about lean meat in the poems of Homer; but they are larded with praise of fat meats: Take the case of Agamemnon, who 'slew a fat bull of five years to most mighty Kronion' (The Iliad, Book II). And in Book IX, 'Patroklos . . . cast down a great fleshing block in the firelight, and laid thereon a sheep's back, and a fat goat's, and a great hog's chine rich with fat.'

The same is true of the religious and profane classics of northern European peoples, preserved in the Scandinavian Eddas and sagas. One Icelandic poem reads 'There (in paradise) the feast will be set with clear wine, fat and marrow'. That's bone marrow, by the way, not the vegetable kind.

The Norwegian explorer and scientist, Dr Carl Lumholtz (1851-1922), reported that the same was true in the southern hemisphere. When he was with the tropical forest-dwelling Aborigines of northern Australia, Lumholtz tells how they lived mainly an animal food, and never ate anything from a plant source if flesh foods were available. Lumholtz also noted that the Aborigines ate their meals in the same way that children will: they ate the best things first — that was always meat, and the fatter the meat the better.

Sir Hubert Wilkins (1888-1958), Australia's most famous explorer, conducted a two-year expedition for the British Museum in northern Australia. Wilkins confirmed Lumholtz's findings, and added certain observations along the same line:

The Aborigines were cannibals, and the missionaries were having some difficulty breaking them of this habit. Wilkins noted that when a thin man died, all that was needed was a stern word from the missionaries, but when a fat man was buried, the missionaries had to stand watch over the grave. And even after some months the Aborigines would dig up fat corpses. They either liked their cadavers high, or did not mind them being that way if they were fat enough.

And, of course, it is no secret that peoples further north: the Lapps and Saami of northern Scandinavia, the peoples of Siberia, the Inuit of Greenland and the Canadian north live entirely on animals and fish, even today. As do many peoples in the tropics: the Maasai, Samburu, Marsh Arabs, Berbers and so on. When Christianity spread northward, the Biblical phrase 'to live on the fat of the land' was readily understood across Europe. In English speech fat food was called 'rich' food. This was the highest praise.

The fattest meat was regarded as the best in most religions and in all countries. Indeed ancient peoples around the world seem to praise fat meat and sweet wine — and nothing else. And that has continued right up to modern times.

The Inuit (Eskimos) today in their natural habitat do not eat vegetable matter. They live instead wholly on seal meat, caribou and fish; and they are among the healthiest people on earth. Only when they start eating the starch and sugar brought by the European does their health decline.

Similarly, up until the end of the nineteenth century, the North American Indians lived almost exclusively on the meat of the buffalo, either fresh or made into pemmican; and it was pemmican which enabled the European pioneers and settlers to open up North America. Pemmican is lean meat, dried and pulverised, then mixed with an equal amount of rendered fat — and that's all. This mixture provided 80 percent of calories from fat and 20 percent from protein. Pemmican was generally preferred to fresh meat and was eaten at a rate of up to one kilogram per day by men who worked hard for up to sixteen hours a day. They remained completely healthy and they performed fantastic feats of endurance on this diet.

There are others like them who live long, healthy lives on a diet which would cause today's western nutritionist to shudder: the Nagas on the India/Burma border, a wiry people who live by hunting pigs and jungle bison; the Maasai tribes of Africa who eat only the blood and milk, and occasionally meat, of their cattle; the Argentinean gaucho of European extraction, nearest to the Inuit as they too are almost exclusively meat eaters. After the gaucho, Australians ate more meat and fatter meat than any other people of European descent. Argentinean and Australian life-expectancy has traditionally been longer than in the industrialised nations of the northern hemisphere – although as Australians assume our way of eating, their health is declining.

Explorers' stories

Medical missionary, G. W. Harley MD, PhD, founded the Ganta Mission in Liberia in the 1920s.

But his experience was not wholly tropical, for in 1924 he served at the Harrington Hospital of the Grenfell Mission in Labrador. He was research associate of the Peabody Museum of Harvard for many years. He published numerous medical and geographical articles, wrote a book about the Negro culture of Liberia for the Peabody Museum, and wrote Native African Medicine, published by the Harvard University Press in 1934. He wrote that: 'While meat of any kind is in great demand, it is interesting to note that the following are the favorite cuts.' Harley then includes a long list of animals that are preferred because of the large amounts of fat they have. Later he tells of his return home:

'On returning to the United States, I arrived during a heat wave, and hungrily devoured fat pork and country sausages in Washington, D. C.. Was disappointed when I could not get sausages with pancakes in Boston because it was "too hot for sausages."

'Men who work in hot places (stokers) do not avoid meat and fats, rather the opposite.'

Earl Parker Hanson's experiences are also interesting as he contrasts his findings on the ground with what he was told by nutritionists who had no such experience. Written over half a century ago, it shows how little has changed; how nutritionists seem unwilling to learn.

Hanson was one of the tropical advisers of the US Quartermaster General, and later he went to Africa in charge of a mission to study Liberia for the Foreign Economic Administration. After he had already spent four years in subtropical Chile, Hanson left for a two-year survey of the Orinoco and Amazon basins for the Carnegie Institution. At that time he still held the usual North American beliefs about South American food habits, to the effect that the local people were all wrong and that North American knowledge of dietetics enabled them to devise regimens better suited to the humid tropics than what the people of those tropics were eating. However, Hanson was gradually converted away from this view. His experiences with the natives and nutritionists back home is telling. Here is what he has to say:

'I have long wondered about the glaring discrepancies in the nutritionists' arguments . . . On the one hand they say that fat is the most efficient energy food known; on the other they talk in doleful tones about the "debilitating" effects of the tropical climate. Why you should be careful to avoid energy-giving foods in a climate that supposedly saps your energy has always been beyond me.

'The pygmies of the tropical Ituri forest will run miles to gorge themselves on the fat of a recently killed hippopotamus. That sort of evidence from natives in various parts of the tropics, both humid and dry, you have in plenty. So I confine myself to giving my own experiences and stating my own conclusions.

'My first personal experience with fat shortage came on my Orinoco-Amazon expedition of 1931-33, when my canoe Indians practically went on strike because I hadn't included sufficient lard or other fat in my supplies.

'I bought enough fat to please my Indians, and then proceeded to eat on the journey from a separate pot, because I "couldn't stand their greasy food." It wasn't many weeks, however, before I avidly grabbed at every turtle egg I could get hold of — for its rich oil as I now realize — and at every Brazil nut, avocado pear, and every other source of vegetable fat, when I couldn't get animal fats. In those days I did not correlate that craving with my food tastes and habits; now I do.

'Recently a lady ethnologist told me that I was all wrong in my claim that any healthy white man can stay in perfect health (as far as food alone is concerned) on any diet that keeps native populations, and 'primitive' peoples in health. She said she had tried it for a number of weeks in Mexico, with almost disastrous results. But when I asked her if she hadn't had trouble adjusting her taste to the 'greasy' food of the Mexicans, she stipulated that 'of course' she and her companions, while eating 'exactly what the Mexicans ate,' had taken pains to prepare the food in an appetizing way, by leaving out the grease! Then she went on to describe her own subsequent troubles in the typical terms of fat-shortage: constant hunger, a vague discomfort, lack of energy, distended stomach, etc.

'With such convictions to start with, growing out of years of personal experience in the tropics, I went on a pemmican regimen in the summer of 1943, staying on it for nine weeks. [Pemmican is a mixture of dried lean meat and fat, and nothing else.] I was leading a sedentary life of office work, and it was one of the hottest summers on record in New York and Washington, where my activities were mainly centered, with temperatures that went higher on a number of occasions than I have ever experienced them in the Amazon basin.

'Some of the results of the 'test' are listed below.

'Fat content. The dietitians warned me when I started that I was endangering my health, because they 'knew,' from years of research, that a fat content of more calories than about 35 per cent in the diet is dangerous.

'My pemmican was one of three types: Type A was so designed that 80 per cent of the calories came from the fat and 20 per cent from the lean, meaning a ratio of about 50-50 by weight; type B had 70 per cent of the calories in the fat and 30 per cent in the lean; type C had 60 per cent of the calories in the fat and 40 per cent in the lean.

'At first I preferred the lean 'Type C' pemmican, because I wasn't used to eating much fat. It wasn't long, however, before I began to realize it was unsuitable. I tried the other kinds and found that where 3/4 pound per day of the fat pemmican (Type A) was absolutely satisfying, I would eat well over one pound per day of the lean pemmican (Type C), and still feel hungry, with a craving for fat. In one period of a few days, when I had nothing on hand but Type C, I added bacon grease and roast beef drippings to this pemmican, and so got along very well. [Emphasis in the original]

'After sixteen days some of the nutritionists got hold of me, showed me figures provided by the National Research Council to the effect that man can't assimilate more than 35 per cent of fat in his diet, and so, 'proved' to me that I was either dead or coasting along on my last reserves of energy. It was a gorgeous battle, especially in view of the fact that I had more 'pep' for such purposes as arguing with nutritionists than I remembered ever having had before. I was in the very pink of condition with all the minor difficulties of the first, mainly psychological, adjustment to an all-meat diet behind me. I finally gave up such fruitless argument, however, when the nutritionists asked me in despair whether I didn't even believe the National Research Council!

'The important thing is that during the entire nine weeks in very hot weather, my appetites and 'cravings' constantly demanded a high fat content, of around 75 to 80 per cent by calories. That was to me one of the most striking results of my experiences.

'Being highly concentrated, pemmican is tricky stuff, resulting in almost immediate cravings to warn of shortcomings, where less concentrated foods seem to take much longer to give warning signals. In the beginning it took only an hour or so, after eating the lean pemmican, before I knew from the way I felt that I had had too little fat. Later, after I had learned to trust to my own appetites and reactions, that adjustment was automatic

(This story illustrates well how little notice nutritionists took of real life half a century ago — and nothing has changed today. Nutritionists, it seems, simply refuse to learn!)

The British also liked fat

In nineteenth century Britain, the most esteemed part of the diet was fat. Describing good meat, Mrs Beeton says, 'Beef of the best quality is of a deep red colour; and when the animal has approached maturity, and has been well fed, the lean is intermixed with fat, giving it the mottled appearance which is so much esteemed'. If meat didn't have much fat, that was a sign of poor quality.

And our respect for the benefits of fat didn't end with the turn of the twentieth century.

The British should eat more fat

As the twentieth century dawned, coronaries were unknown and cancer was rare. But all was not as it should have been. Although better sanitation and cleaner living conditions brought about by the slum clearances begun it the late nineteenth century had reduced the incidence of typhoid and cholera, still many children suffered from deficiency diseases: Rickets was called 'The English Disease' because it affected so many children. Infectious diseases — whooping cough, scarlet fever, measles — were also common among children.

In 1914 war broke out throughout Europe. Young men were called up to serve in the army — and one in four was rejected. They were simply unfit. As the war progressed, it became increasingly difficult to find men fit enough to fight it.

By the time this was realised, it was already too late to do a great deal to improve general fitness within the male population for the 1914-1918 war but the British government determined that something had to be done to ensure that such an embarrassing situation was never repeated.

In the 1920s, Sir John Boyd Orr compared growth rates of children in public schools with those in the state-run schools. He found that those from wealthier backgrounds were significantly taller than their poorer peers. After examining their relative diets and changing the constituents, Boyd Orr proved conclusively that children of the socially deprived, who lived on a largely carbohydrate diet of bread and potatoes, benefited from a diet supplemented with full-cream milk.

This finding found confirmation in observations among the peoples of India made by Dr Robert McCarrison, a colonial medical officer. He compared the southern Indians, who ate very little in the way of dairy produce and who were of stunted growth and prone to disease, with their neighbours to the north, the Sikhs. They drank a great deal of milk and were fit and healthy. Similar research in Africa contrasted the tall, slender and healthy Maasai, who lived almost exclusively on blood and milk, with their vegetarian neighbours the Kikuyu. They were stunted, pot-bellied, diseased and short-lived. That added to the weight of evidence.

And so Boyd Orr concluded that the food intake of half the British population was seriously deficient in a number of 'protective constituents', as he called them, which were necessary for good health.

In the late 1930s he proposed that the British people should drink more milk, and eat more dairy produce and meat. The British government of the time recommended that milk consumption should be doubled and introduced free school milk. The British Medical Association, giving specific amounts, advised that the population should eat 80 percent more milk, 55 percent more eggs, 40 percent more butter and 30 percent more meat. That advice, given to the people of Britain in 1938, remained the basis of our diet for nearly fifty years. As a consequence, child deaths from diphtheria, measles, scarlet fever and whooping cough fell dramatically long before the introduction of antibiotics and widespread immunisation. Rickets, called the 'English Disease' because it was so widespread, together with other deficiency diseases largely disappeared from our lives. Although other factors helped, most important was the higher resistance of children to disease that followed from better nutrition. And the recommendations above helped to give us a life-expectancy that is now among the highest in the world.

Who of us over fifty can forget the government sponsored 'go to work on an egg' campaign of the 1960s?

Fat, therefore, has played a major role in the diet of peoples of every inhabited continent across the globe from the Arctic to the Equator and from primitive to civilized. In 1957, the late Dr John Yudkin, when Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at London University, called fat 'the most valuable food known to Man' in a foreword to Dr Richard Mackarness's book, Eat Fat and Grow Slim. It is.

A new disease appears

But by then heart disease had taken off across the industrialised world and 'fat' had become a 'four-letter-word'. The dissenting voices, of which there were many, went unheeded. In the 1980s Boyd Orr's recommendations were reversed dramatically. In 1982, 1983 and 1984 respectively, the American Heart Association (AHA), and in Britain the National Advisory Committee on Nutrition Education (NACNE) and the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA), issued reports that were remarkably similar. Coronary heart disease, our biggest killer, they said, was caused by an excessive amount of fat and cholesterol in our diets — despite the fact that heart disease was and is nonexistent in peoples of the world who eat a cholesterol-rich, fatty diet.

'Healthy eating' is not healthy

It is now more than two decades since we switched from the previous high-animal fat, dietary recommendations to the current low-fat, so-called 'healthy' ones. During that time the new dogma has been an outstanding success — from an advertising point of view. We have been so inundated with it that we believe it implicitly; we eat our skim milk cottage cheese, and wholemeal bread spread very thinly with low-fat spread, in the certain knowledge that by so doing we will live healthily for ever. But are we any healthier than we were in 1980 as a result of this radical change to our diet?

The simple answer is: No!

Diseases that were previously rare — diabetes, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, infections, cancers, even the heart disease the dietary change was primarily aimed at preventing — have all risen in number since we started to eat 'healthily'.

The figures just for Britain are staggering:

  • 1 in 5 people of working age in the UK now has a long-term disability.
  • Almost half the population will be affected by a cancer during their normal lives — and the numbers are increasing.
  • Over 1,600 women die of cancer of the cervix each year.
  • 1 in 12 women will develop breast cancer.
  • 1,000 men develop testicular cancer each year.
  • 1 in 4 men will suffer from heart disease before the age of 65.
  • 1 in 40 women dies of heart disease before the age of 65.
  • Obesity has trebled since 1980.
  • There are 1.8 million diagnosed diabetics — a number expected to double by 2010.

There is a tendency among most conventional scientists and nutritionists today to rely heavily, even exclusively, on clinical studies in discussing the health effects of diets. This is unfortunate and, quite frankly, narrow-minded, as it not only restricts study to unnatural and possibly irrelevant dietary matters, it ignores the other important scientific information currently available from the fields of evolution and anthropology. Even though some formal dietary studies are ecological [epidemiological] and are based on the aggregation of large amounts of data, these studies require follow up clinical studies to confirm hypotheses suggested by the ecological data. So, one ends up right back – again – with clinical studies.

What we should be looking at is what we are genetically programmed to eat. And when we look in that direction we find that genetically we are still very similar to the hunter-gatherers of the late Palaeolithic era: the human gene pool has changed little since anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, became widespread about 35,000 years ago. And from a genetic standpoint, we are still genetically late Palaeolithic pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers.'

So, because of our genetic similarity, the diet of Palaeolithic times is relevant. For this reason, anthropological studies – studies of real peoples in real situations – such as those conducted by Dr Weston A. Price, Dr Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Admiral Peary, and many others during the last two centuries are far more relevant.

You see, changing so radically from a high-fat diet to one low in fats is not healthy. Not only have we lost the benefits from the fats we used to eat, we have replaced them with sources which is quite alien to our diet — polyunsaturated vegetable oils and margarines, and lots of starchy and sugary foods. The diet we call 'healthy' today is probably as unhealthy as it can get.

We should not be looking for answers to the diseases we suffer from today, but why many peoples in the world don't get them at all. That way we might stand a better chance of an answer to the dreadful plague of ill-health we are beset with.


Stefansson V. The Fat of the Land. The Macmillan Company, New York, 1957.
Wilkins, H. Undiscovered Australia. London, 1928.
G. W. Harley, MD, PhD, quoted in Stefansson V. The Fat of the Land. The Macmillan Company, New York, 1957, pp 130-132.
Earl Parker Hanson quoted in Stefansson V. The Fat of the Land. The Macmillan Company, New York, 1957, pp 134-140.
Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, Ward Lock & Co, London. 1869.
Orr JB. Food, Health and Income. London. 1936
McCarrison R. Nutrition in health and disease. Br Med J 1936; 26 September: p 611.
Orr JB, Gilks JL. Studies of Nutrition: The Physique and Health of Two African Tribes. H.M.S.O., London, 1931.
Eaton SB, Konner M, Shostak M. Stone agers in the fast lane: chronic degenerative diseases in evolutionary perspective. American Journal of Medicine, 1988; 84: 739-749.

Last updated 5 June 2005

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