Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's hard to undo three decades of damage

Fat is where it's at: For decades, fat has been blamed for everything from heart disease to obesity to cancer. But new research shows that fat can be good for you.

As the obesity epidemic was later to arrive in Europe, the pro-fat backlash isn’t yet in full swing there, but signs are emerging. A recent study in the NEJM fingering total calories, not fats or carbs, as responsible for weight loss, made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. And anecdotes abound. British celebrity chef Anthony Worrall Thompson has been blatant about using lard in his restaurants. In Norway, sausage consumption is up.

Even mainstream nutritional experts have recanted. The blanket message that "fat is bad for you" has few remaining adherents. The AHA, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Council on Science and Health have all modified the message, from their original admission that unsaturated fats are good for you to the grudging acknowledgement that even trans fats may not be as bad as they’ve been portrayed to be. "We should apologize for making people think about ‘percentage of calories,’" says the AHA’s Eckel, adding that the focus should be on total calories. "You want to eat steak? That’s fine. Just make it six ounces rather than 16."

To undo decades of fat-phobia, it’s going to take a more rousing endorsement. And for that, it’s necessary to leave the realm of science and enter the kitchen, where it’s easier to consider the possibilities. Take guacamole, or the pat of butter that finishes a risotto or a chocolate pudding. McLagan includes fat in everything from salad to dessert, with recipes for grilled steak and red wine sauce topped with bone marrow. For a sweet, try salty bacon brittle with pork cracklings. These are beyond rich—the animal fats give the dishes depth and an almost medieval earthiness—and they’re delicious, enough to make even confirmed skeptics salivate.

No comments: