Is Fat Necessary?

Is Fat Necessary? is like asking "Is Crime Necessary?" or "Is it Necessary to be Fat?" The implication alone is bad, like asking "How Often Do You Beat Your Wife?" Of course, the answer to all of these questions is "no."

Is fat essential in a healthy diet? Some nutritionists and scientists believe that a small amount of fatty acids or components of certain fats are essential to human nutrition. This has never been demonstrated for humans, although apparently it is true in rats. There is the incontrovertible fact that count- less millions of human beings in Asia, Africa, South America and elsewhere do not consume fat in their diet. And yet they live to a health-normal or beyond-normal life span; their physical or nutritional development is not infrequently far superior to the people on a high-fat or average American fat dietary intake.

Most certainly it is known now that these same people on a low-fat or fat-free diet are virtually free from heart attacks and strokes, which are so common among people on a fat diet.

Many have wondered whether the Eskimos have a high rate of heart attacks and strokes as a result of their high fat diet. First it should be remembered that the Eskimo days of existing on blubber and whale alone are mostly over. Several years ago physicians working with the National Geographic Society found that the Eskimos who lived in the more modern settlements and ate and lived like other Canadians or Americans in country villages, were subject to the same degree of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and heart conditions.

On the other hand, in those Eskimo cases where fish and whale fats constituted the basis of the diet, blood tests revealed that cholesterol and fats in the blood were very low. This surprising fact was later found to be due to the high concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids in the large amount of fish and whale oils consumed by these Eskimos. As will be shown later, these unsaturated fatty acids have the unique power to lower the blood levels of cholesterol and other fats, thus protecting the Eskimos from the complications of atherosclerosis in the heart, brain, kidneys, and other organs.

What is fat? First let us look at food in general. As long as we are alive, breathing, with our hearts pumping, our bodies are at work burning up energy--which is supplied by food.

Food or foodstuffs consist of six groups, all of which are basic necessities essential for normal health. These are proteins, carbohydrates, fats (which are also manufactured by the body), vitamins, minerals, and water.

Protein is the keystone of human nutrition. It is essential for every form of life for growth, pregnancy, formation of blood, bone, and every vital tissue. It is essential for the healing of wounds, the warding off of infection, the maintenance of body weight, and the conduct of vital organs and glands in the body.

Meat is the greatest source of animal protein for human consumption and man can live in good health on virtually an exclusive fresh meat diet. Animal sources of proteins are meat, fish, poultry, milk, eggs and cheese. These foods contain high sources of protein, as well as carbohydrates and fats. Vegetable sources of protein are wheat, beans, peas, lentils, soybeans, nuts, corn, rye and yeast, although these also contain elements of carbohydrate and fat.

Normal adults and growing children require one gram of protein for every 2.2 lbs. of body weight. This means that the average man or woman weighing 125 to 175 lbs. needs from 60 to 80 grams of protein daily for normal nutrition. This would be contained in the equivalent of 1/2 pound of steak, one chicken, a pound of fish or a pound of cottage cheese. Each gram of protein supplies four calories of energy, as shown in Chapter 6.

Carbohydrates are a main source of energy. Carbohydrates include the two main classes: starches and sugars. They are one of the primary sources of energy of our diet. One gram of carbohydrate yields 4 calories of energy. The amount of carbohydrates necessary in the daily diet is very variable and also depends on the amount of it eaten with the protein in meals. The average American adult consumes anywhere from 150 to 400 grams of carbohydrate daily. It takes about 500 grams to make a pound. Usually more than half the calories in the diet (from 50 to 70 per cent) are supplied by carbohydrate.

Unfortunately, these carbohydrates are usually refined to excess, as in the case of flours and sugars. Essential vitamins and proteins are lost in this way and certain nutritional deficiencies may result. If excessive carbohydrate is eaten in the diet, many individuals will experience symptoms of gassy distress, flatulence, belching, or bloating. Bread, flour, milk, cereals, potatoes, cornstarch, cakes, rice, and puddings are examples of dietary starch as are most vegetables, although these contain lesser amounts of both carbohydrates and protein. Sugars are represented by cane sugar, corn syrup, honey, maple sugar, and syrup, milk sugar, malt sugar, jams, jellies, and most fruits.

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