Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review: The Big Fat Surprise

If you've stopped by at all in the past year, you know that my dearly beloved is now on a heart-friendly diet.  That is a lot harder than it sounds, salads notwithstanding.  Example: There just plain is no good substitute for real, good old fashioned butter.  There might be a tub margarine that has a close enough flavor, but nothing works quite the same for sauteeing, or for baking.

So, one fine Saturday I was reading my Weekend Wall Street Journal, and on the front of the Review section there was an enormous article about the debate between animal fats and other fats, etc.  A week or 2 later, there was a similar article in Time Magazine, stating that fat is not such a villain.  Given both of these articles, I ordered this book, and have spent a couple of months reading it.

By Nina Teicholz

Ancel Keys is the father of the American Heart Association's accepted diet.  This book traces the beginnings of that diet, from his research (which was flawed) through the acceptance of the premise that people should not consume cholesterol from animals.  This was a reversal of his earlier research, which had concluded that consumption of 3000 mg of cholesterol per day didn't significantly raise serum cholesterol, although his reasons for that were not made clear.  The author traces this recommendation from its beginnings through the changes that have come about in commercial food preparation as a result.

I can't begin to do justice to a summary of this book.  I spent 2 months reading it, because there were many studies cited, and I tried to at least look up every one of them, despite the fact that I'm not qualified to properly analyze them.  One thing that I did take away from this book is that the "Obesity Sextette" as it was called in the early 1900s - heart disease, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, gallstones and diabetes - rose dramatically starting around 1900, when people started using more plant based fats, sugars and carbohydrates.  Actually, I'm now cooking in a state of confusion.

I wasn't certain how qualified Nina Teicholz was to write this book, which evidently began as a research assignment by Gourmet Magazine, for which she was a writer, into trans fats (which raise triglyceride levels in the blood, a big indicator of heart problems), starting in 2004.  But she studied biology at Yale and Stanford, and earned a graduate degree from Oxford, thus I'd conclude that she is probably pretty qualified to analyze this subject.

If food, fats and/or heart disease are of interest to you, I'd highly recommend this book.  It's not difficult or highly technical reading, despite the fact that I made it more complex than it needed to be.We'll see, through my dearly beloved's required many-times-per-year blood testing, how some of my moderate changes in his AHA recommended diet affect him.

This delayed Thorsday book review is brought to you by Natasha, who comes to visit every 2 to 4 weeks, and loves lounging on the lawn!


rottrover said...

Natasha, that was a very interesting review! I agree that proper nutrition is an extremely confusing subject, and while neither Mr. RottRover nor I are trying to manage a ticker issue, we do try to eat healthy. I've come to rely on common sense since everything seems to change every 10 - 15 years. I am very pleased, though, that your Dearly Beloved is cooperating and feeling "the betterment" as we say in Blogville!

~~louise~~ said...

HI Marjie!
Well, this post could not be more timely:) As you know, September is National Cholesterol Education Month and this book seems like one I should be looking into ASAP!

The whole cholesterol, low fat thing is all to confusing but I am going to try and touch on the subject this weekend. I hope you don't mind if I make reference to this post:)

The fact that "hubby" is doing oh so much better is comforting enough for us to be sure of one thing, we must be aware of what we put into our bodies good, bad or otherwise. I have recently realized how absent minded I can be about nibbling for example.

Thank you so much for sharing this book reveiw Marjie and thank you to your new house guest, Natasha:)

Paula said...

Hi Marjie, it's been forever since I've been in the blogging world ... except for yours! I check it every week. Anyway ... just had to comment about butter. Butter made from grass-fed ONLY dairy cows has a different chemistry than mainstream butter, and has been shown to be heart-healthy. I'll let the google-world detail all the benefits for you, but it might be worth checking out. Other than small local dairies, the only "brand" name butter I know of that is from the 100% grass fed only is the import brand Kerrygold.

Still love reading your posts ... your blog is my favorite! Those boys of yours sure have grown into fine young men, and your girls are something to brag about 24/7! Hope all is well in your neck of the woods! :)

STELLA and RORY from Down Under said...

Hi Marjie. Good review and I'm afraid sometimes we eat butter and sometimes margarine depending what's on sale. We have been lucky enough to have healthy hearts and live by the everything in moderation rule. Also we walk for exercise (5 km/day). Glad to hear hubby is feeling better. Have a great weekend and hope you get to see some of the kids. No worries, and love, Carol.
P.S. Rory does look thinner but is only 1 kg less than before his embolism. I think he has lost muscle tone from lack of movement which we are trying to get back on him. He is a work in progress :-)

altadenahiker said...

The dog is beautiful. I eat butter. I'll trust you to sort this whole thing out. But likely, I'll still eat butter.

Sue said...

I've never liked butter. Was raised on margarine and prefer it. We cook with olive oil. We try to eat healthy but we don't obsess over it. Lately I find myself not really wanting to eat at all and have to remember to eat something each day.

Dexter said...

Always more information about getting to the bottom of what causes heart disease. I've never been a fan of the one size fits all, less fat in means less fat in your blood, approach. Now carbs are being targeted as the primary demon with a newly published blind study to support that supposition. All things in moderation I suppose. Glad hubby is doing well.

Mango Momma

Pam said...

It sounds like an interesting read. My husbands levels are doing great (phew).

Natasha is such a beauty!

SissySees said...

I'm going to let Louise review it before I dive in. I'm still forcing my way through Sound & Fury. Do I have to move out of C'ville - and the South - if I really can't like Faulkner?