THE HEALTH AND HARM OF FATS…
Truly Your Best Friends And Worst Enemies!
By Dan Moore, The Natural Vet®
One of the most misunderstood yet most important
aspects of health, is fat! Quite honestly, many health
care practitioners don’t even understand just how
important fats are.
For instance, would you agree that most people have
and ARE being told daily that fats are bad for you? Most
doctors, the media, the advertisements and pretty much
ALL, suggest a low fat diet. I am here to tell you, in my
not so humble opinion, that NOTHING COULD BE
FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! Fats are critical to
your health and your animal’s health. You need them
and you need lots of them, you just need the right kinds!
Stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular
patients are all too familiar fat related
problems, but as I will explain, these are
just the tip of the iceberg! For instance,
anyone who is autistic, has Multiple
Sclerosis, Diabetes, Optic Neuritis,
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fibromialgia,
Alzheimers, Parkinsens Disease, ALS,
depression (manic or otherwise), Chronic
Fatigue Syndrome – ANY
neurodegenerative disorder is most likely
lacking good fats and overloaded with bad fats. Liver
disease, gallbladder, adrenal disease, heavy metals, any
infection (chronic or otherwise), and especially Lymes
are ultimately a fat problem!
As I continue my search, I am quickly coming to realize
that even “aging” itself is DIRECTLY related! In horses,
my personal opinion is that EPM, Infertility, Botulism,
heavy metal toxicosis, Cushing’s Disease, and certainly
the obvious – hypothyroidism, metabolic disorders and
insulin resistance are all FAT balance related (certainly
the same for pets, too).
For the most part, I believe that the equine field is slightly
ahead of human medicine in getting the word out to the
public about the need for fats. But unfortunately, I am
certain that most high fat diets in horses are only going
to contribute more to the overall problem – because as
in people, we are feeding our horses the “wrong” fats.
Neither Low Fat nor High Fat for people or animals is
correct — the RIGHT fat is the answer!
My mission in this article to explain why fats and how
fats are so important. For the fish oil and flax eaters, I
will offer this preliminary advice though: fish oil and/or
flax are not enough! How do we know which fats to
For a better understanding let’s look at the body itself.
The brain is 60% fat – (17-20% omega 3, and about 12%
omega 6). The cell membranes that surround blood cells,
liver cells are roughly half fat. (The other half is protein
suggest a low fat diet.
I am here to tell you, in my not so humble opinion, that
NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!”
Neurons, dendrites, synapses
– the nerve connections themselves, are
fat! Myelin, which insulates nerve fibers,
is 76% fat!
The obvious question from me is: How
can reducing fat in the diet be good for
these? It can’t! The need for a good brain
I would think is fairly obvious. Cell
membranes are vital because they
separate the zillions of cells in the body
from the outside world and allow for the
exchange of all the bad and good “stuff.”
Personally, I want my membranes in tip top shape!
Because I know there is a lot of “bad stuff ” to keep out
as well as “good stuff ” to get in! Nerve connections,
that don’t work, such as the dendrites, neurons, and
synapses would pretty much be like having a dead battery
in your car…you ain’t going nowhere!
One final example: it is in the development of myelin
that surrounds the nerves. Myelin development is what
babies need before they can start to walk. Now if myelin
is 76% fat, is it not obvious that fat is critical? Only if
one wants to walk!!! Dah…Here’s your sign if you think
otherwise!! (Sorry – couldn’t resist.) But, if such vital
structures as these are mainly composed of fat, does it
not make sense that the fats need replenishing?
Next, to further understand which fats we need, let’s look
at the actual membranes which surround each and every
cell in the body. The principle fat in membranes is called
a phospholipid. Literally each membrane is made up of
millions of phospholipids all lined up. Each has a head
and two tails. One tail is a saturated fat (straight tail), the
other is an unsaturated fat (a crooked tail). Wedged in
between is cholesterol. Also, a part of each membrane is
a glycolipid. Glycolipids are tiny sugar molecules that
protect, insulate, and again, exchange nutrients. Let’s take
a closer look at each of these components and see how
Cholesterol varies with the type of membrane. For
instance, plasma membranes have essentially one
cholesterol per phospholipid molecule. Some membranes
that need more support may need more, BUT ALL
membranes need cholesterol. Cholesterol actually gives
the membrane structure, plus it allows certain things to
pass and others not to pass.
The problem SOMETIMES with
cholesterol is when it “overflows” into
the blood stream…but even in the blood
stream, it is sort of like a beneficial band
aid FIXING potential leaks in the cell
walls of the vessels – putting back the
structure to a bad wall. If it breaks loose
and causes a clot – yes, that is bad (stroke
or heart attack)… but saying that high
cholesterol is the cause of heart disease
is like saying that a lot of police in a high
crime district is the cause of the crime… You must have
cholesterol! Who said cholesterol is bad for you? What
IS actually bad for you are the bad fats – cholesterol is
not the bad fat!
As I said, the main component of each and every
membrane in the body is phospholipids. Let’s break down
the phospholipid molecule and look at it a little closer.
The phospolipid molecule looks like a fish with two tails.
It acts kind of like a magnet – the head having one charge
and the tails having the opposite. This magnet-like
component attracts and repels, thus allowing “stuff,” both
good and bad, in and out through the membrane. One
side of the tail, the unsaturated one, actually vibrates
moving particles in and out! The saturated tail part is
rigid and solid and hardly moves. It is the balance of
these two tails that is the most critical to understand.
You see it takes both kinds of fats – both saturated and
unsaturated to compose the properly maintain structure
of the chief component of cell membranes
(phospholipids). JUST NOT EATING FAT can lead to
problems. I mentioned this concept to a friend just the
other day. Her comments were that in the office where
she worked 7 of the 9 women went on a “low fat craze”
several years ago – all seven now have MS! Wow!
Now let’s look at one more aspect of fats and membranes,
probably the most important! RENEGADE fats, perhaps
not a good medical term, but none the less, a word I like
to use because it describes these types of fats perfectly.
Why? Because they are bad news to the bone! These are
man-made fats or particles of fats or mutated fats or
jumbled up fats, trans fats, etc. etc.. THESE, my friends,
are the killers and these are what we are eating in the
typical American diet (especially prevalent in horse and
pet foods, too).
are the killers and
these are what we are
eating in the typical
in horse and
pet foods too).”
These RENEGADE FATS can displace the
good fats we just discussed. They make the
membrane absolutely solid – they don’t
move, vibrate, transmit or anything – they
just prevent the good from getting in and the
bad from getting out! These essentially clog
up all membranes and are a major factor in
causing disease – essentially any disease! In
slight defense of the “low fat craze,” a low
fat diet would reduce these renegades,
because these are typically what almost all
Americans eat – but if the right fats are not
added back, then it is certainly a Catch 22 situation – too
much bad and not enough good.
According to my sources, which are not your typical
medical media propaganda, almost all degenerative
neurological situations are fat related! AND, almost all
of the diseases mentioned thus far can be helped by
burning the bad fats and flooding the body with the good
fats – including phospholipids. This knowledge is not
new, ladies and gentlemen – I found books from back in
the 70’s discussing this very issue – not in quite so much
depth, but the CONCEPT of good and bad fats has been
around a long time.
The difficulty is that the American Food Industry
processes almost all of the foods we eat. PROCESSED
FATS AND OILS ARE DEADLY. This includes most
bread, most crackers, cookies, margarine, cooking oils, etc. –
If it says hydrogenated, refined or processed on the label –
don’t eat it!
My Grandmother ate bacon, eggs, real butter and whole milk
every day. Most likely so did yours, (but not processed, refined
fats and oils) and she lived well into her 80’s. I believe we can,
too. Science has not really discovered yet the correct balance
of these Omega Fatty Acids (essential fatty acids or EFA’s).
Most doctors so far are just suggesting fish oil and/or flax
(omega 3) – which are helpful – but I believe we are forgetting
the other omegas – even omega 6 and especially omega 9. AND
I know most have totally forgotten or are not yet aware of the
phospholipids – which are absolutely critical. By the way, one
of the best sources of phospholipids and Omega Fatty Acids
are CRUDE UNREFINED soybeans. Coconut is a great source
of Omega 9 – and coconut even contains high amounts of Lauric
acid – shown to be both antibacterial and antiviral!
One quick note on horse and pet feed is the difficulty in
preserving fats in the feed – which is often why so many feeds
contain these renegade processed fats – they withstand heat
that feeds are exposed to better, but honestly are like feeding
plastic to your horse! Typical vegetable and corn oil sources
are refined, processed and just plain bad for you, your pet, or
Thus far we have discussed cholesterol, phospholipids,
saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and briefly discussed
omega fatty acids but have yet to mention the glycolypids
present in cell membranes. Essentially these are very simple
sugars and though they are being studied extensively, little is
known about them except that they protect, insulate and help
exchange nutrients. Some studies are already showing that they
may actually help modulate or regulate the immune system.
Examples of such glycolipids are mannins such as mannose,
oligosaccarides, agrabinogalactan. I have no doubt that they
are extremely important because I am seeing the clinical results
in both animals and man by using them. Some examples of
potential benefits thus far seen are help with gut problems,
such as chronic or acute diarrhea, and even allergies. Major
universities have even demonstrated by experimentation an
increase in Natural Killer Cells, which help fight cancer cells,
and activation of what is called the compliment system, which
is what is activated when foreign substances invade the body –
thus making them essentially antiviral and antibacterial. One
lab demonstrated Arabinogalactan (which comes from the
Western Larch Tree) to be even more beneficial than Echinacea
and especially better with long-term usage.
Finally it is hard to discuss fats without at least mentioning
anti-oxidants. THEY are critical, too, for many reasons but
especially important regarding fats. When fats rot or go rancid
they are essentially worse than anything. The reason the food
industry even processes fats and oils to begin with is so that
they are more stable and less likely to go rancid – we now
know this is not good, right? But as we use more good fats
(less processed as I suggest) there is a greater chance of
rancidity – because they are less stable (perhaps I should say
LESS LIKE PLASTIC). These must be counterbalanced with
antioxidants. THE PRIMARY ROLE OF ANTI-OXIDANTS
IN THE BODY IS TO STABILIZE FATS! Oxidation could
be described as rusting. Anti “Oxidation” is to help prevent
the rusting within the body. Every animal, including man, needs
anti-oxidants daily. Just like a piece of metal left in the
environment will rust, so will our bodies if they are not
protected. Anti-oxidants are like “Rustoleum” for the body –
critical for long term protection.
I hope it is becoming more and more clear that simply eating
“low fat” and less cholesterol (much less cholesterol lowering
drugs) is just not the answer. Essential fatty acids, phospholipids,
glycolipids and anti-oxidants are a critical parts of anyone’s (or
animal’s) health plan. I wish I had the TOTAL answer for you
and I do certainly promise to keep searching. In the mean time,
avoid processed food (renegade fats, hydrogenated, refined) as
much as possible. Do consider an essential fatty acid supplement
(but not just fish oil or flax). Always take anti-oxidants yourself
and give your pets and horses anti-oxidant supplements, too.
Start each and every day with 25 grams or so of high quality
protein (a whole other nutrition lesson!) and consider a
phospholipid supplement as well.