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The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We Can Do to Replace Them

SUSAN ALLPORT
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zw1rs
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  • Book Info
    The Queen of Fats
    Book Description:

    A nutritional whodunit that takes readers from Greenland to Africa to Israel,The Queen of Fatsgives a fascinating account of how we have become deficient in a nutrient that is essential for good health: the fatty acids known as omega-3s. Writing with intelligence and passion, Susan Allport tells the story of these vital fats, which are abundant in greens and fish, among other foods. She describes how scientists came to understand the role of omega-3s in our diet, why commercial processing has removed them from the food we eat, and what the tremendous consequences have been for our health. In many Western countries, epidemics of inflammatory diseases and metabolic disorders have been traced to omega-3 deficiencies.The Queen of Fatsprovides information for every consumer who wants to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and obesity and to improve brain function and overall health. This important and compelling investigation into the discovery, science, and politics of omega-3s will transform our thinking about what we should be eating.* Includes steps you can take to add omega-3s to your diet* Shows why eating fish is not the only way, or even the best way, to increase omega-3s.* Provides a new way to understand the complex advice about the role and importance of fats in the body* Explains how and why the food industry has created a deadly imbalance of fats in our foods* Shows how omega-3s can be reintroduced to our diet through food enrichment and changes in the feeding of livestock

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94132-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. ONE WHATʹS FOR DINNER?
    (pp. 1-13)

    The year 2003 will be remembered as a time when america lost its dietary senses. Overnight, it seemed, this country switched from a low-fat regime, in which people shunned every form of visible fat, to the Atkins regime, in which fat consumption was encouraged but carbohydrates were to be avoided. Jack Sprat, who could eat no fat, suddenly became Sprat’s wife and could eat no lean.

    The accumulated nutritional advice from decades of research was tossed aside like an old blanket, and grocery stores were suddenly filled with such gastronomical oxymora as low-carb bread and beer. Thin women in tight...

  4. TWO A TRIP TO GREENLAND
    (pp. 14-24)

    Dha, the quick-change artist, was not the first omega-3 fatty acid to catch the attention of scientists. Their interest and concern had earlier been aroused by eicosapentaenoic acid, the fat I called the mediator or peacemaker of cell messengers. Eicosapentaenoic acid, whose name describes the makeup of its molecule—twenty (eikosi, in Greek) carbons and five (penta) double bonds—was made a celebrity in the 1970s after two Danish physicians got it into their heads to go to Greenland and investigate stories they had heard about the Eskimos’ lack of heart disease. This absence was curious, these doctors thought, because...

  5. THREE HOW THE OMEGAS GOT THEIR NAME
    (pp. 25-44)

    What jørn dyerberg and ralph holman did not discuss, as far as either of them can remember, was Holman’s work over the past three decades, work that revealed the competition between fatty acids such as arachidonic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid for enzymes and for coveted spots in the membranes of cells. This discussion would have put Dyerberg and Bang’s unusual findings about Eskimos into a broader context and might even have led to an earlier understanding of the role of omega-3s in healthy diets.

    Holman showed Dyerberg around the Hormel Institute where he worked (it is somewhat ironic that the...

  6. FOUR MONSIEUR CHOLESTEROL
    (pp. 45-53)

    Ralph holman wasnʹt interested in cholesterol when he was looking for a new research project in 1941. But there was someone at the University of Minnesota who would be taken by this waxy substance, the stuff of plaques, as well as normal tissues, hormones, and vitamins. That was Ancel Keys, the charismatic physiologist who turned cholesterol into a household name and who even earned the nickname “Monsieur Cholesterol” because of his decades of work linking fat in the diet to elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood.

    “Keys had a beneficial effect because he focused people’s attention on lipids,” says...

  7. FIVE FISHY FATS
    (pp. 54-67)

    Dyerberg and bang had no idea that their work would upset the apple cart of Keys’s model. Not after their first trip to Greenland in 1970. Not even after Dyerberg visited Ralph Holman in Minnesota and learned the name of the fatty acid that was so prevalent in the red blood cells of Eskimos.

    Eicosapentaenoic acid was, after all, a polyunsaturated fatty acid; and polyunsaturates, as Keys had come to acknowledge, lower the cholesterol in an individual’s blood. The presence of high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid in the Eskimos’ blood would nicely explain why their serum cholesterol was low despite...

  8. SIX TREE LARD AND COW OIL
    (pp. 68-75)

    Before i pick up the trail of ralph holman’s research—from the 1960s, when he gave polyunsaturated fats their catchy names, to the 1970s and ’80s, when he finally settled the matter of whether omega-3s were essential for humans—I’d like to spend some time on fat itself, that greasy substance that is the vehicle, or defining taste, of most cuisines.Greasydid not always have the derogatory connotation it does today. It used to be a compliment, but its meaning has changed as our diet has become sweeter. Together, fats and carbohydrates make up more than 80 percent of...

  9. SEVEN THE CHEMIST IN THE KITCHEN
    (pp. 76-85)

    No one knows more about the diversity of fatty acids in fat than Ralph Holman. He spent years, decades, teasing out alpha linolenic acid (or eicosapentaenoic acid or DHA) from the messy mixture of triglycerides that make up any one fat. In the process, he acquired an appreciation for those messy mixtures. There must be some reason for them, though neither scientist nor cook understood it as yet.

    This appreciation kept him from jumping on the prostaglandin bandwagon as so many scientists did in the 1960s and ’70s. Holman heard through the grapevine about his good friend Sune Bergström’s success...

  10. EIGHT OUT OF AFRICA …
    (pp. 86-95)

    In this brief telling of the long history of how scientists discovered the importance of omega-3 fatty acids, I’ve had to reduce the cast of characters enormously, as the reader has probably surmised. Out of the complicated tapestry of people and ideas that make up any new field of science, I’ve focused on the most dominant colors or threads. And in the process, I know, I’ve slighted some great scientists and great science. I’ve barely mentioned the work of the innovative fish biologist Robert Ackman, and I’ve said nothing yet about Howard Sprecher, the biochemist who worked out the complete...

  11. NINE … AND INTO THE MEMBRANE
    (pp. 96-102)

    Like michael crawford, william lands was advocating for dietary changes long before most scientists knew what an omega-3 fatty acid was and long before 1985, when a conference in Washington, D.C., left all the participants with the realization that there was something very wrong with the food supply. Lands arrived at this position not from his knowledge of brains, as Crawford had, but from his understanding of membranes, the very thin envelopes that surround every cell and every organelle within each cell, and of phospholipids, their basic building blocks.

    Phospholipids, as Lands knew in the 1950s when he was beginning...

  12. TEN WHERE HAVE ALL THE OMEGA-3s GONE?
    (pp. 103-119)

    The tipping point for many of the scientists involved with omega-3 fatty acids was 1985. It was the year that researchers from around the world came to a conference in Washington, D.C., to present evidence and examine claims that eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA, two fats found in significant amounts in fish and fish-eating people, confer special benefits on human health.

    The National Fisheries Institute, as well as the Department of Commerce and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sponsored the conference, whose goal was to promote the consumption of fish and fish oil—which it did. But it also had...

  13. ELEVEN THE SPEED OF LIFE
    (pp. 120-137)

    Readers with a philosophical bent may already be wondering why the fats of leaves and the fats of seeds would have such different effects on human health. They may already have hypothesized that the disparity has something to do with the fact that these fats are markers of the changing seasons—as good as, if not better than, light and temperature. Once incorporated into an animal’s cell membranes, they might help an animal prepare for the future: for periods of activity and reproduction, when the fats of leaves are abundant, and periods of hunkering down and survival, when the fats...

  14. TWELVE PUTTING OMEGA-3s BACK INTO YOUR FOOD SUPPLY
    (pp. 138-146)

    The queen of fatsis not a diet or a nutrition book, nor is it the last word in omega-3 recommendations or research, a field that expands greatly every year. But I would be remiss if I didn’t give readers some advice on what fats they should be eating and how they can correct for the large amounts of linoleic acid in the American food supply. Though the government may dawdle over this issue, individual readers can take matters in their own hands by following some fairly simple and straightforward guidelines. These guidelines don’t involve any calculations—calculations aren’t necessary,...

  15. THIRTEEN THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING
    (pp. 147-152)

    As frustrated as scientists such as ralph holman and William Lands are with the slow pace of acceptance of the importance of omega-3s, it is just a matter of time, they know, until the work catches on. Let me put it this way: It is just a matter of time until a person’s omega-3 status will replace serum cholesterol, LDL to HDL ratio, and even C-reactive protein, the newest, hottest risk factor (and one that is highly correlated with omega-3 status), to assess that person’s risk for sudden cardiac death and other diseases. It is just a matter of time...

  16. TIME LINE SOME IMPORTANT EVENTS IN THE LONG, UNFINISHED TALE OF OMEGA-3 RESEARCH
    (pp. 153-158)
  17. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 159-168)
  18. NOTES
    (pp. 169-200)
  19. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 201-204)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 205-222)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-224)