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The Queen of Fats

Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We Can Do to Replace Them

Susan Allport

Publication Year: 2006

A nutritional whodunit that takes readers from Greenland to Africa to Israel, The Queen of Fats gives a fascinating account of how we have become deficient in a nutrient that is essential for good health: the fatty acids known as omega-3s. Writing with intelligence and passion, Susan Allport tells the story of these vital fats, which are abundant in greens and fish, among other foods. She describes how scientists came to understand the role of omega-3s in our diet, why commercial processing has removed them from the food we eat, and what the tremendous consequences have been for our health. In many Western countries, epidemics of inflammatory diseases and metabolic disorders have been traced to omega-3 deficiencies. The Queen of Fats provides information for every consumer who wants to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and obesity and to improve brain function and overall health. This important and compelling investigation into the discovery, science, and politics of omega-3s will transform our thinking about what we should be eating.

* Includes steps you can take to add omega-3s to your diet

* Shows why eating fish is not the only way, or even the best way, to increase omega-3s.

* Provides a new way to understand the complex advice about the role and importance of fats in the body

* Explains how and why the food industry has created a deadly imbalance of fats in our foods

* Shows how omega-3s can be reintroduced to our diet through food enrichment and changes in the feeding of livestock

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-9

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1. WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

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pp. 1-13

THE YEAR 2003 WILL BE REMEMBERED AS A TIME WHEN AMERICA LOST its dietary senses. Overnight, it seemed, this country switched from a low-fat regime, in which people shunned every form of visible fat, to the Atkins regime, in which fat consumption was encouraged but carbohydrates were to be avoided....

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2. A TRIP TO GREENLAND

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pp. 14-24

DHA, THE QUICK-CHANGE ARTIST, WAS NOT THE FIRST OMEGA-3 FATTY acid to catch the attention of scientists. Their interest and concern had earlier been aroused by eicosapentaenoic acid, the fat I called the mediator or peacemaker of cell messengers. Eicosapentaenoic acid, whose name describes...

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3. HOW THE OMEGAS GOT THEIR NAME

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pp. 25-44

WHAT JØRN DYERBERG AND RALPH HOLMAN DID NOT DISCUSS, AS far as either of them can remember, was Holman’s work over the past three decades, work that revealed the competition between fatty acids such as arachidonic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid for enzymes and for coveted spots in the membranes...

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4. MONSIEUR CHOLESTEROL

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pp. 45-53

RALPH HOLMAN WASN’T INTERESTED IN CHOLESTEROL WHEN HE WAS looking for a new research project in 1941. But there was someone at the University of Minnesota who would be taken by this waxy substance, the stuff of plaques, as well as normal tissues, hormones, and vitamins. That was Ancel...

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5. FISHY FATS

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pp. 54-67

DYERBERG AND BANG HAD NO IDEA THAT THEIR WORK WOULD UPSET the apple cart of Keys’s model. Not after their first trip to Greenland in 1970. Not even after Dyerberg visited Ralph Holman in Minnesota and learned the name of the fatty acid that was so prevalent in the red blood cells of Eskimos....

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6. TREE LARD AND COW OIL

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pp. 68-75

BEFORE I PICK UP THE TRAIL OF RALPH HOLMAN’S RESEARCH—FROM the 1960s, when he gave polyunsaturated fats their catchy names, to the 1970s and ’80s, when he finally settled the matter of whether omega-3s were essential for humans—I’d like to spend some time on fat itself, that greasy...

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7. THE CHEMIST IN THE KITCHEN

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pp. 76-85

NO ONE KNOWS MORE ABOUT THE DIVERSITY OF FATTY ACIDS IN FAT than Ralph Holman. He spent years, decades, teasing out alpha linolenic acid (or eicosapentaenoic acid or DHA) from the messy mixture of triglycerides that make up any one fat. In the process, he acquired an appreciation for...

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8. OUT OF AFRICA . . .

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pp. 86-95

IN THIS BRIEF TELLING OF THE LONG HISTORY OF HOW SCIENTISTS discovered the importance of omega-3 fatty acids, I’ve had to reduce the cast of characters enormously, as the reader has probably surmised. Out of the complicated tapestry of people and ideas that make up any new field...

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9. . . . AND INTO THE MEMBRANE

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pp. 96-102

LIKE MICHAEL CRAWFORD, WILLIAM LANDS WAS ADVOCATING FOR dietary changes long before most scientists knew what an omega-3 fatty acid was and long before 1985, when a conference in Washington, D.C., left all the participants with the realization that there was something very wrong...

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10. WHERE HAVE ALL THE OMEGA-3s GONE?

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pp. 103-119

THE TIPPING POINT FOR MANY OF THE SCIENTISTS INVOLVED WITH omega-3 fatty acids was 1985. It was the year that researchers from around the world came to a conference in Washington, D.C., to present evidence and examine claims that eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA, two fats found...

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11. THE SPEED OF LIFE

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pp. 120-137

READERS WITH A PHILOSOPHICAL BENT MAY ALREADY BE WONDERing why the fats of leaves and the fats of seeds would have such different effects on human health. They may already have hypothesized that the disparity has something to do with the fact that these fats are markers of the...

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12. PUTTING OMEGA-3s BACK INTO YOUR FOOD SUPPLY

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pp. 138-146

THE QUEEN OF FATS IS NOT A DIET OR A NUTRITION BOOK, NOR IS IT the last word in omega-3 recommendations or research, a field that expands greatly every year. But I would be remiss if I didn’t give readers some advice on what fats they should be eating and how they can correct for the large...

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13. THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

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pp. 147-152

AS FRUSTRATED AS SCIENTISTS SUCH AS RALPH HOLMAN AND William Lands are with the slow pace of acceptance of the importance of omega-3s, it is just a matter of time, they know, until the work catches on. Let me put it this way: It is just a matter of time until a person’s omega-3...

TIME LINE: SOME IMPORTANT EVENTS IN THE LONG, UNFINISHED TALE OF OMEGA-3 RESEARCH

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pp. 153-157

GLOSSARY

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pp. 159-168

NOTES

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pp. 169-200

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. 201-203

I was a visiting professor at Davidson College in North Carolina while I researched this book, so many of my acknowledgments are directed to people at that small, stellar college in the South. Erland Stevens, in particular, spent hours discussing all things chemical with me, and I hope that something...

INDEX

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pp. 205-222

Production Notes, Further Reading

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pp. 223-224


E-ISBN-13: 9780520941328
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520242821

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: California Studies in Food and Culture