Maybe We SHOULD Eat More Fat?

In a review of Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss, a new book about the food industry, David Kamp writes:

The term “bliss point” . . . is used in the soft-drink business to denote the optimal level of sugar at which the beverage is most pleasing to the consumer. . . .

The “Fat” section of “Salt Sugar Fat” is the most disquieting, for, as Moss learns from Adam Drewnowski, an epidemiologist who runs the Center for Obesity Research at the University of Washington, there is no known bliss point for fat — his test subjects, plied with a drinkable concoction of milk, cream and sugar, kept on chugging ever fattier samples without crying uncle. This realization has had huge implications in the food industry. For example, Moss reports, the big companies have come to understand that “cheese could be added to other food products without any worries that people would walk away.”

By “fat” Moss means animal fat (the fat in cheese, for example). I haven’t seen the book but I’m sure Moss doesn’t consider the possibility that “there is no known bliss point for fat” because people should be eating much more animal fat. In other words, it is hard to detect the bliss point when people are suffering from severe fat deprivation.

My view of how much animal fat I should eat changed abruptly when I found that large amounts of pork fat made me sleep better. One day I ate a lot of pork belly (very high fat) to avoid throwing it away. That night I slept much better than usual. I confirmed the effect experimentally. Later, I found that butter (instead of pork fat) made me faster at a mental test. This strengthened my belief that I should eat much more animal fat than countless nutrition experts have said. (Supporting data.)

My sleep and mental test evidence was clear and strong (in the sense of large t value). The evidence that animal fat is bad (based on epidemiology) is neither. That is one reason I trust what I found rather than what I have been told.

Another reason I trust what I found the fact that people like the taste of fat. That evolution has shaped us to like the taste of something we shouldn’t eat makes no sense. (Surely I don’t have to explain why this doesn’t mean that sugar — not available to prehistoric man — is good for us.) In contrast, it is entirely possible that nutrition experts have gotten things backwards. Epidemiology is a fledgling science and epidemiologists often make mistakes. Their conclusions point in the wrong direction. Here is an example, about the effect of beta-carotene on heart disease:

Epidemiology repeatedly found that people who consumed more beta-carotene had less heart disease. When the idea that beta-carotene reduces heart disease was tested in experiments, the results suggested the opposite: beta-carotene increases heart disease.

“Fat will become the new diet food” (via Hyperlipid).

8 Responses to “Maybe We SHOULD Eat More Fat?”

  1. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    Seth, do you know of any plant fats that might have comparably beneficial effects? I know that the Buttermind experiment suggested that coconut fat didn’t compare favorably to butter. But I wonder if there are any other type of plant-derived fats or oils that may be promising.

    Seth: I can’t think of any plant fats that resemble animal fats. They would need to be solid at room temperature — which wouldn’t work well for a plant.

  2. Mike C Says:

    Perhaps you could say a bit more on your final point? Any individual study could be wrong, but the idea that I could increase my chances of having a heart attack by eating too many carrots (and thus more beta carotene) sounds ridiculous.

  3. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    I think there’s a bliss point for fat– people generally don’t eat butter or cream alone unless they have a theory saying they should.

  4. Evelyn M. Says:

    I agree with Ms. Lebovitz. Mr. Moss’ test for the “bliss” point for fat was flawed because he added sugar to the mix – and I think he added sugar because he knew that when eating pure fat, even delicious fat such as butter, one reaches a saturation point fairly quickly, and that would undermine the point he was trying to make.

  5. JW Says:

    Nancy:

    Agreed. I do drink heavy cream alone, often an entire pint, and have for months.

    There is certainly a “bliss point.” My consistent experience has been that it leaves me both incredibly full and sated, for quite a number of hours. After which point I can hardly imagine eating another thing. What one would expect from 190g of saturated fat, albeit in only two cups.

    If anything I suspect the fat concoction fed to those individuals is not fatty enough. Not so much because they are fat deprived, but likely because the levels of saturated fat considered “safe” are absurdly low (and therefore who would venture such a thing?)

    Also, the note about cheese is absurd. Cheese is hardly pure fat or anywhere close to it; even many “high fat” cheeses are mostly protein.

    Again, fat-is-scary relativism at work. In a world of adequate fat consumption, cheese is a low fat product. In the world of ultra-conservative guidelines, it is notably scary as a fatty food additive.

  6. Bob Says:

    More accurately the book states that there is no known bliss point for fat up to heavy cream. It mentions that a couple of times but doesn’t really emphasize it.

    bob

  7. Greg Says:

    I would like to see the bliss point experiment done with pure lamb tallow.

  8. CC Says:

    “Another reason I trust what I found the fact that people like the taste of fat. That evolution has shaped us to like the taste of something we shouldn’t eat makes no sense.”

    As much as I want to believe this, Seth, there are other possibilities:
    1. Prehistoric man only had access to small amounts of animal fat. Maybe small amounts are good for you but the amounts we can obtain nowadays are unhealthy.

    2. Animal is actually very good for you until age 60 (for instance). Maybe eating a lot of animal fat makes you more likely to have a heart attack at age 60 and beyond; this would have made no difference to prehistoric man.

    What do you think? I’d love to be wrong about this!