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HUMAN ENGINE OIL - THE CONFUSING FACTS

by Ed Mengle

It's all very confusing. And until recently it was really quite simple.

Meat and dairy fat were not terribly good for you. The oils found in fish were marvellous while the balmy diet of the Mediterranean was pretty good too.

The key task for Northern Europeans and Northern Americans was to adjust their fat-laden diets and start using vegetable oils for frying and baking. This, it was said, would help put an end to the epidemic of heart disease plaguing the developed and newly developing nations.

Perhaps. But the message of the last few months is that there are wide differences between oils.

Olive Oyl the Queen!Olive Oyl the queen of oils!

It's amazing in a way. Whether you consume rice, grain or potato as your staple starch the differences so far as the majority of the population is concerned do not seem that remarkable.

But the oils and fats we eat are all very different. As an extreme case, take Lorenzo's Oil, about which a film was made. The distressing metabolic disease adrenoleukodystrophy may be one of a number which depend crucially on the nature of the fats consumed by the sufferer.

The same, it seems, may apply to the health of every individual.

For while fish oil may be terribly good for the heart, it is one of a class of polyunsaturated fats which it seems put consumers at risk of stroke and breast cancer.

But the oil of the soya bean is also one of these fats. Yet the evidence tends to be that soya protects women against breast cancer.

Overall olive oil emerges as the queen of oils. It is monounsaturated and there is plenty of evidence that those who consume it have pretty good health. But who knows what undiscovered hazards excessive consumption may mean.

The stories on this page, taken from the Englemed Health News archives, reflect some of the major recent discoveries about dietary oils and fats.

In time they will be assimilated into professional dietary advice. Not all the findings will stand the test of time. Even research involving thousands of people can be proved to be wrong or misleading.

And investigating eating habits is notoriously difficult since it involves establishing exactly what people do eat from day to day. Lumping all fats together as polyunsaturated, saturated etc may hide critical differences.

For example, exactly how much fish was consumed by participants in the Swedish study of breast cancer? Not necessarily a great deal it seems from the original report.

But the days when all consumers can be given the same advice may be disappearing.

For just as a doctor is obliged to tell a patient of the side-effects of the drugs they consume, perhaps the days are coming when the nutritionist will discuss the side-effects of the foods they advise.

And the well-informed consumer, no doubt, will want to balance for themselves the risks attached even to the healthiest sounding substances.


Balance fat intake and include the HCG diet for a healthier body.

Contents of this page

Seafood - what's it good for? HUMAN ENGINE OIL - THE CONFUSING FACTS - by Ed Mengle
Seafood oil not so good for breast - claim
...nor does it help against strokes - claim
Mediterraneans live longest
Healthy margarine found in Finland
Fungi hope for multiple sclerosis/Seafood good for joints
Meat doubles heart risk
Arctic better than Med for heart - just about
Tofu aids young hearts?
Why soy may be good for breast
Fat bad for breast

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Low-fat best for cholesterol

March 13th 1999

Reducing fat in your diet cuts cholesterol levels - without exception, a report has claimed.

A diet with no more than 30 per cent of calories coming from fat reduced cholesterol levels by five per cent, researchers report in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.

Up to ten per cent of the diet consisted of saturated fat. When this was reduced to seven per cent total cholesterol levels were cut by nine per cent.

The researchers claimed this could cut the risk of heart disease by up to 20 per cent.

Researchers at four US medical centres conducted detailed studies on more than 100 volunteers - drawn from all ages, both sexes and several races.

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...And Bad for Skin?

March 6th 1998

A healthy diet can cut the risk of developing common skin cancers, a conference has been told.

People at risk of skin cancer should ensure that fats comprise no more than 20 per cent of their diet, Dr Harvey Arbesman told the annual conference of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Eating lots of vitamin C could also protect against common skin cancers, Dr Arbesman said.

Dr Arbesman, from the University at Buffalo, USA, was reporting on recent findings on nutrition and skin cancers other than melanoma - the most deadly form.

He said the benefits of low-fat diets for high risk patients had been demonstrated in clinical trials.

He said: "Some animal and epidemiological studies have shown that a higher intake of Vitamin C can reduce the development of nonmelanoma skin cancer.

"They also may benefit from increasing their intake of foods containing beta carotene, such as carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli."

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Seafood oil not so good for breast

January 16th 1998

Some "healthy" fats and oils massively increase the risk of contracting breast cancer, the results of a wide-ranging European research project have revealed.

Only the oils found in olives and nuts help protect against breast cancer while those found in soya, seafood, sunflower and maize increase it, the Swedish study claimed.

Researchers report that monounsaturated fats, found in olives, nuts and rape-seed oil - known as canola in some countries -, reduce the risk by 45 per cent.

But polyunsaturated fats increase the risk of contracting the disease by as much as 69 per cent, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Meanwhile the conventional demons of health - saturated fats found in milk and dairy products - apparently made no difference to the overall risk.

Dr Alicja Wolk and colleagues from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, studied more than 61,000 women aged between 40 and 76.

The finding is the second blow in a fortnight to the reputation of polyunsaturated fat which is found in seafood, soybean, maize and sunflower oils. The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that it increases the risk of stroke.

Other substances found in soya, however, are thought to help protect against breast cancer.

And fats such as fish oil are thought to give powerful protection against heart disease.

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Olive oil best against stroke?

...nor does it help against strokes - claim

January 2nd, 1998

Eating fatty food may help reduce the risk of having a stroke, according to shock new findings.

While eating lots of meat and dairy products increases the risk of heart attack, it has the reverse effect on the risk of stroke, according to the research reported in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health found the risk of having a stroke dropped by 15 per cent for every three per centage points increase in the consumption of saturated and monounsaturated fats.

Researchers studied the diets and number of strokes in more than 800 men over a 20-year period.

While traditionally unhealthy fats, such as saturated fats, reduced the risks of stroke, the supposedly healthier polyunsaturated fat, which is found in fish and vegetable oils, increased it.

The kind of fat found in nuts and vegetable oils, monounsaturated fat, appeared to reduce the risk of stroke.

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Mediterraneans live longest

December 19th 1997

The poorest people in Europe are among the longest living - because of the food they eat, according to The Lancet.

An Albanian adult has the same life expectancy as a British adult despite existing on one fiftieth of the income, the report from the London School of Economics, UK, says.

Albanians eat less meat and milk and more fruit, vegetables and carbohydrates than many wealthier people in Europe.

The findings lend weight to other studies which suggest that the so-called Mediterranean diet is much healthier than the fat-laden northern European lifestyle.

The researchers also compared diets and death rates in the north and south of Albania - and found death rates were almost doubled in the north where more dairy food and meat is eaten.

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Healthy margarine found in Finland

December 19th 1997

A new kind of margarine can help some women control their blood cholesterol levels and reduce their risk of heart disease.

The margarine, which contains a substance called sitostanol, is sold in Finland where doctors have established it can help a third of women with cholesterol problems, according to Circulation.

Some women with high cholesterol levels were able to eliminate their need for drug treatment altogether.

Sitostanol is made from pine trees - which are readily available in Finland.

Researchers from Finland studied groups of elderly women with heart disease.

They found that conventional margarine reduced cholesterol levels by five per cent but the Finnish margarine cut total blood cholesterol levels by 13 per cent - with the greatest reduction in low density lipoprotein, the unhealthy form of cholesterol.

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Fungi hope for multiple sclerosis


Seafood good for joints

December 5th 1997

Fatty acids extracted from plants and fungi could help patients with multiple sclerosis.

The substances have so far been tested on rats by researchers at St Thomas' Hospital, London, who say they prevented the rats developing a form of MS.

They believe they work by damping down the immune system.

The work was revealed at the British Society for Immunology Annual Congress in Brighton.

It is thought that MS is caused when the immune system turns on itself and destroys critical parts of the brain's protective surfaces.

Trials on patients with MS are to begin soon, the conference was told.

And in a separate presentation researchers from Boston, USA, told how eating sea-food could help patients with rheumatoid arthritis - because of the kind of fat the food contains.

Dr Richard Sperling of the Brigham and Women's Hospital described how seafood fats caused less inflammation than other kinds of fat found in the diet.

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Meat not so good for heart

Meat doubles heart risk

November 21st 1997

Vegetarians face half the risk of heart disease of meat eaters, new research has revealed.

Eating nuts helps but animal produce such as cheese and eggs do nothing for the health of a vegetarian's heart, according to research in the journal Heart.

The findings from a study of 11,000 people showed a strong link between consumption of animal fat and heart disease.

The researchers from Oxford, UK, and Otago, New Zealand, confirmed that a non-meat diet cuts the risk of heart disease by half.

Participants in the study ranged from vegetarians to health conscious meat-eaters.

And while overall vegetarianism was found to be healthier, the researchers said the strongest link with heart disease was the consumption of animal fat - whether in cheese, eggs or meat.

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Arctic better than Med for heart - just about

November 14th 1997

The Eskimo Diet is better at preventing heart disease than the Mediterranean diet, researchers have claimed at the world's biggest heart conference.

In fact the Eskimo Diet - which involves consumption of large quantities of fish oil - is superior to several acknowledged forms of healthy diet, a series of researchers told the American Heart Association conference.

The Eskimo diet - good for the heart? Thousands of doctors and scientists flocked to Orange County, California, USA, for the conference.

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre produced evidence that a diet rich in fish oil reduces hardening of the arteries more effectively than fats such as olive oil.

This was despite the fact that, in trials on laboratory monkeys, fish oil led to higher cholesterol levels.

Other evidence showed that a fish diet is better at preventing heart disease than a vegetarian diet.

Researchers from Italy and from Washington State, USA, said they have the first firm evidence that fish oil can lower levels of so-called bad cholesterol.

The results came from a study of the Bantu people of Africa by researchers at the Universities of Milan, Padova and Washington at Seattle.

Meanwhile new research from Finland showed that consuming too much iron put men at risk of heart disease.

Men with the largest iron stores in their bodies had almost three times the number of heart attacks as men with low iron levels, the conference was told.

The research used new techniques to measure iron levels and confirmed previous theories which suggest that men should avoid iron supplements and limit consumption of red meat.

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Tofu aids young hearts?

November 7th 1997

Heart health starts young in Japan, a study of more than 20,000 children across three continents has revealed.

Researchers found that Japanese children as young as seven had much higher proportions of "good" cholesterol - high density lipoprotein - than youngsters in Australia and the USA, Circulation has reported.

The Japanese good health is thought to be due to the country's fondness for soy products, especially tofu.

Why soy may be good for breast

October 3rd 1997

New evidence that eating vegetables and soya food can protect against breast cancer has been revealed in The Lancet.

Researchers from Perth, Australia, analysed women's consumption of chemicals called phyto-oestrogens. These are found in soya, fruit and vegetables and are similar in composition to female hormones.

They found high consumption of certain kinds of phyto-oestrogen was linked to a substantial reduction in breast cancer risk.

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Fat bad for breast

September 5th 1997

A disturbing link between fatty food and breast cancer has been uncovered by a European Commission sponsored study.

The study, published in this month's Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, shows that women with high consumption of so-called trans fatty acids have a 40 per cent increased risk of breast cancer.

This kind of fat is found in chips, margarine and a range of snacks.

When these women were compared with those who consumed mainly polyunsaturated fat their risk was found to be 3.5 times greater.

Doctors from Northern Ireland, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Finland and North Carolina took part in the research which involved nearly 700 women.


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