Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Seth on Fat

Seth has some good thoughts on animal fat:

for best health I need much more animal fat than I usually get — is plausible:

1. As Spector said, butchers cut the fat off meat. The odds that our Stone-Age ancestors, living when food was sometimes scarce, did the same thing: Zero. Perhaps our meat is unnaturally low in fat. If for a long time in our evolutionary past we ate a lot of animal fat it makes sense that our bodies would be shaped to work best with that much fat.

2. Many video games, which boys enjoy, resemble hunting. I think this reflects an evolutionary past in which men hunted. If so, for a long time humans ate meat. That they ate a lot of meat is suggested by the fact that when big game went extinct (probably due to hunting) human health got worse.

3. American culture demonizes animal fat. The conclusion that animal fat is bad rests on epidemiology. Once something becomes heavily recommended or discouraged, a big problem for epidemiologists arises: the people who follow the advice are likely to be different (e.g., more disciplined, better off) than those that don’t (the healthy-user bias). As I blogged yesterday, an example is vaccine effectiveness: Those who get vaccinated are different than those who don’t.

4. Fat tastes good. Which implies we need it. We like whipped cream, butter on toast, milk in tea, and so on. Butter vastly improves toast even with my nose clipped. Long ago, when this fat-pleasure connection evolved, dietary fat was mostly animal fat and fish oil.


Josh said...

I really dislike when people rationalize humans' need for fat because it "tastes good" or how we crave a juicy, rare steak.
Know what else people have cravings for? Cotton Candy, Soda, Pizza, French Fries... etc

Just because something tastes good to us or we crave it is a bad reason to say we need it, because you can rationalize anything using that line of thought.

Bryce said...


I'd say big game went extinct because agriculture so completely changed the land scape that entire species were decimated, like salmon and buffalo (less than 1% of buffalo remain!). As their natural habitats were obliterated (the American prarie is 99% gone and most of our large rivers are damned), many species found it harder to breed, eat, etc.

Furthermore, the agricultural population explosion made it hard for animal food sources to keep up with the caloric demand of our numbers.

Good stuff Chris. You can probably tell I've been reading Vegetarian Myth, as it does an excellent job making the case against agriculture.

Bryce said...

And to Josh,

The thing is that animal fat is naturally occuring, whereas the only time you'd find sugar in concentrated form would be in honey really (not even sugar cane offers as dence a sugar source). So when hunter gatherers find honey they devour it, and they do the same for fat. But they only find honey once in a while, and they find fat all the time. If you only gorge yourself on sugar occasionally, but fat regularly, you'll have hunter gatherer health - i.e. good teeth, strong bones, and no modern diseases . . .

Marnee said...

Agriculture developed as a consequence of the need for food due to the lack of big wild game. They were not likely to have been hunted out of extinction so much as the environment could no longer sustain them in large populations. Human hunting is coincidental.

As the wild game dwindled, ruminants, who can be considered large game by the way, were domesticated in large numbers and food was grown for them. Agriculture started as a way to support the domesticated animals which humans ate, not really as a direct food source.

Chainey said...

I would be with Josh on this question. I think that animal fat is healthful and natural and I eat plenty of it, but it has to stand on its scientific merits, not the "tastes good" argument.

It's well known that Cordain believes that wild animals of the type we would have hunted have relatively little fat. Perhaps he's wrong, but if not then the same argument would apply as that of sweet/honey: i.e. that our taste for fat would have been beneficial because we never would have been able to satisfy it (but we can oversupply it in the modern world).

As I say, I don't believe that to be the case, but it's logically possible.

Bread is very satisfying and filling, and not primarily because it's "sweet", but of course it's totally unnatural and does great harm.

Same argument for cocaine or coffee, etc.