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The Fats of Life: A Farmers View

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The conflicting and partisan advice served up to us confuses many and disappoints others when this miracle diet or that exercise regime does not work. Here, I invite you to look at the body in a different way and strike at the root of avoidable problems.

Your body is basically a chemical factory, albeit a very complicated one, driven by a very simple food system that has not changed dramatically since the Stone Age. At it's most basic level, your food is the raw material that fires up your organs and gets your bodily functions going. My hope is that these simple thoughts will start you on the path to a better diet through the knowledge that a factory with the right raw materials will work and produce first class articles.

My interest started, when as a farmer,I needed to change and diversify in order to survive. I started producing linseed oil for horses and cattle some five years ago and just over two years ago started selling a refined oil for human consumption. Although I have no medical knowledge and I do not make medical claims,I believe that going back to basic food thinking will help you. I have learned a lot about oils and fats, they are some of the most basic building blocks of your body and are the raw materials for the membranes that surround your 700 million, million cells. It follows that if you build them from inferior materials, you will be open to disease.

Explaining about these oils and fats could change your life for the better. It is the balance of oils and fats that is important for our bodies. There are three basic sources and I like to use this simple illustration to explain them:
  • The first is represented by the cow, which provides you with saturated fats in the form of meat and dairy products. Your body needs these.
  • Second, is the oil seed plant, which provides oil, the unsaturated fatty acids omega 3, 6 and 9. Your body also needs these.
  • Third and finally, is the industrial food factory that produces solvent extracted oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil and trans fatty acids. Your body does not need any of these.
When your 'personal chemical factory' was made, all the blueprints for your body to recognise food for optimum health were added. No blueprints for any modified man-made oils were added as they are not recognised by your body. If these types of fats predominate in your diet, the body has little choice but to use them to build it's cell membranes. The ingestion of these unfamiliar hydrogenated oils by the body to make your cell membranes leaves you open to attack from illness and disease. This is why the food we eat is so important for health.

Man's interference with oils includes solvent extraction, hydrogenation and partial hydrogenation which makes trans fatty acids. The two main oils extracted by the solvent process are soya and corn (maize). There is so little oil in these seeds that, if a pressing process were used, the flour from the crushed seed would simply soak up the liquid. Solvent extraction requires the mashed seed to be mixed with Hexane, (rather like petrol). This then has to be boiled off at high temperature to release the oil.

Degumming and deodorising is required before it is bottled for sale. This process destroys and goodness that started in the seed and there may even be residues of the solvent left in the oil.

Hydrogenation of vegetable oil is the process that turns oil that is normally liquid at room temperature to solid, butter like spreads. In this process, manufactures will probably use the cheapest oil available, and this could include the solvent-extracted soya or corn oil. The oil is passed through tiny metal particles normally nickel oxide in a high-pressure, high-temperature reactor and hydrogen gas is pumped through. Soap like emulsifiers and starch are then squeezed in for better consistency. Colouring and flavouring follow steam cleaning and bleaching of the unappetising result of this process. The end product is wrapped or packed in tubs and sold to us as a 'health' food.

To explain the use of these bad fats in relation to diabetes:
In simple terms, the pancreas needs saturated fat combined with the right amount of unsaturated fatty acid (omega 3) to operate. It is getting too much pseudo fat from the factory, which is overloading it. We give it too much sugar as well, therefore it has to work too hard to control and regulate insulin levels. It just wears out too quickly and this is why the increase in diabetes is becoming so frightening.

Saturated fat, in moderation, is not all bad. Consumption of real saturated fat, which the body needs and expects, is going down because farmers are breeding leaner animals. We are putting too much of the bad man made oil in our diet, for which it does not have the blueprint, and the nearest blueprint it can find is for saturated fat, so the body substitutes the bad oil instead. It has no choice.

So, the message is be sensible with your use of oils and fats; they are basic building blocks of the body. Use butter wisely, use your oil cold, keep away from man made spreads and you will have a healthy life.

A little interesting history
While food rationing continued until the mid-Fifties the government gave mothers cod liver oil and orange juice. When rationing finished this stopped. At the same time we started to use many more man-made products, like Vinyl, instead of Linoleum, which had been made from Linseed.

If you fell in the sea you would be rescued by a lifeboatman wearing an oilskin made from Linseed oil, now he would no doubt be wearing some kind of plastic. In the past huge quantities of Linseed were grown for paint and other industrial uses and the by-products were large quantities of Linseed cake. Farmers used this cake a great source of oil and protein mixed with their own cereals to form a balanced ration of cattle. Farmers had small herds that grazed extensively over older pastures containing many herbs and grasses. This kind of grazing, coupled with the use of Linseed cake in the ration, produced omega 3 in the meat, milk and along with oily fish, provided our requirement of Omega 3 that kept us healthy.

As I mentioned, the changes in out use of Linseed coincided with farmers need to have larger herds and I believe they lost touch with how the animals were fed. Now, the Omega 3 portion of the total fat content of meat and milk is about 0.8%, wild cattle have 2.8% to 3%, domesticated cattle fed on Linseed would have more. The small bottles of milk children used to get at school would also have contained Omega 3. Gengis Khan's family lived on Koumiss fermented from mare's milk. It contains 38% Omega 3 and look how successful he was!

The changes to which I refer started some fifty years ago and, coupled with the increased use of hydrogenated vegetable oils, represent a dramatic shift in the diet. It is no surprise to me that Dyslexia, Diabetes, attention deficit syndrome, hay fever, skin problems, blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and many auto immune diseases are our new ways to be ill and die. The changes in agriculture today may give the opportunity for food to be processed closer to the end user and to avoid many of the chemicals and fats that are killing us.

The increase in farmers markets, with farmers regaining skills for providing wholesome food and communicating their message, is just a little step along the road to providing us with better food. Hippocrates said let food be your medicine and medicine be your food. I might add that when you are ill 'visit your farmer, not your doctors' because it is the farmer who produces the raw materials for your body. Perhaps it should be 'visit your farmer for good food to keep you healthy'.

School trial proves Omega 3 can help 'difficult' kids learn When Dr Madeleine Portwood persuaded her bosses at Durham County Council to run trials using Omega 3 on kids with learning problems, she wasn't prepared for the astonishing turnaround in some students whose reading age improved by four years and a half years in just six months. "What we observed was a big change in children's attention and behaviour which led to higher reading scores", says Dr Portwood who blames the fast food culture for a sharp rise in disruptive behaviour both at school and at home. "Lunch for many school kids is a can of pop and a packet of crisps, but in the afternoon they're fit for nothing because their concentration is shot", she says. The primary school study, which involved 100 six to 11 year olds in local authority schools, has been followed by another in secondaries and now a new pilot has been launched in nursery schools. "If it is effective in the secondary environment it could be the break through we have been looking for", says Dr Portwood. The trials forced a change of policy in Durham County Council schools catering department which decided to reduce food cooked in hydrogenated fats and include more fresh and local produce. Durwin Banks of High Barn Oils, says: " We ignore these findings at our peril. The Durham trials clearly show that we are failing our children by removing Omega 3 from the diet".


By Durwin Banks
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