The quick answer: Good fats (like butyrate, found in butter) reduce cancer risk. Bad fats (refined, used in deep fat fryers) increase cancer risk. For better health, enjoy natural fats.
As you know, the Healthy Changes that constitute W of W Living rotate through 13 themes, and we visit each topic quarterly. In the first four posts of the year we covered these themes:
- Slash consumption of added sugars (#1: One soda drink per week, or less).
- Eat healthy fats (#2: Nothing deep fat fried).
- Organize your cooking (#3: Write a weekly menu).
- Eat grains whole (#4: Breakfast cereals must have more natural fiber than sugar).
- Next week the topic is exercise (#5: Exercise at least 30 minutes most days.)
Judging by the sparse comments on breakfast, I think most everyone gets the fiber>sugar rule and the importance of whole grains (that is, grains with their natural fiber intact). So could we revisit the subject of fats, Healthy Change #2?
Fat and Cancer
It’s hard to think of a subject where the public has been given more bad information than fats. The beautiful wife, for example, still prefers reduced fat milk even though I’ve pointed out a Harvard study linking such products with a higher risk of infertility. It’s not that we’re seeking another child—six was plenty, for us at least. But if a factory-processed food reduces fertility, might it not have other harmful effects? It’s just hard to put a lifetime of erroneous information out of one's head.
This week I learned two new things about fat and cancer:
- A study links prostate cancer to the processed fats used in deep fat fried foods.
- A natural fat found in butter, butyric acid, reduces the risk of cancer.
Toxic Deep Fat Fryer Fats
University of Washington scientists announced a study showing that men who consumed deep fat fried foods at least weekly, had about 1/3 higher risk of getting prostate cancer and an even higher risk of the more aggressive version. This is a new and important finding.
Previous studies had indicted grilled meats (meats cooked at high temperature) as a risk factor for prostate cancer but we learn now that deep fat fried foods are even more dangerous.
Foods cooked at high heat contain toxic advanced glycation endproducts (AGE) which cause chronic inflammation, a risk for a host of disorders, including, beside some cancers, atherosclerosis (plaque and hardening of arteries associated with heart disease). What makes the commercial deep fat fryers especially toxic is the number of days the fats remain in the fryers at high temperature.
Deep fat fried foods have previously been linked to cancers of the breast, lungs, pancreas, and esophagus. So Healthy Change #2 Never eat deep fat fried foods, deserves more emphasis. To read more about the prostate cancer study go here.
Butter Fights Cancer
I’ve learned to live without donuts and French fries, but it would be harder to give up butter. Fortunately, there’s another reason to enjoy butter—butyric acid, a short-chain, 4-carbon, saturated fat (also known as butyrate). Butter is the main dietary source of butyric acid, containing 3-4%.
When certain rats are fed high-fat diets they get real fat. But if butyrate is included, even though it’s a fat, they don’t. Pretty interesting because who would have thought that eating butter might help humans avoid adding fat? Butyrate also reduces inflammation, insulin levels (while improving insulin sensitivity), and the risk of metabolic syndrome.
In addition to butter, we can produce butyrate in the G.I. tract from the fiber in our diet—bacteria living in the gut that help with metabolism section the fiber into butric acids. So both butter and fiber are sources of butyrate. In the Women’s Health Study, those who ate more foods rich in fiber had less inflammation, and fewer heart attacks. Butyrate appears to also reduce the risk of breast and colorectal cancer.
One nutrition goal is to forget what we were told about fats. We keep learning how natural fats are essential to good health, and how highly processed factory fats are harmful. Enjoy healthy fats, including butter, olive oil, and coconut and palm oils.