17

votes

Are animal fats nutritious?

Asked on September 25, 2017
Created May 25, 2010 at 11:54 PM

This question has been puzzeling me. It seems that people here often say that they value fats like butter, cream or animal fat due to them being nutrient dense or packed full of nutrients. However on the information I can find I do not see evidence for this. While it is true that if grass fed they contain some vitamin A, E, K and CLA fats they seem a poor source of almost everything else.

I have tried to give some examples that can be set to about 100 calories each to compare the nutrition per calorie from nutritiondata.com*

Butter 14g http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/133/2

Cream 30g http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/51/2

Tallow 13g http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/fats-and-oils/482/2

If you comepare to these as an example:

Sweet potato 114g http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2667/2

Beef brain 85g http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/beef-products/3463/2

While brain is a possible source of fat for our ancestors butter does not compare well in terms of nutrients. I can find no info on bone marrow but I suspect it is nutritious. I understand that butter and cream are a useful source of calories. Would replacing other foods with them not reduce the overall vitamin and mineral content the diet? Can someone to explain why animal fats are so nutritious?

*I understand that grass fed cream and butter will have better A, E, CLA, 3:6 ratio etc than in the links but I don't think grass feeding increases many other vitamins and minerals greatly.

9f9fa49265e03ddd2bf2bba5477a556b

(3184)

on March 07, 2011
at 07:17 PM

I used to feel after eating freshly baked bread slathered in butter. I used to feel good after eating a big bowl of sugary cereal. I definitely feel good after drinking a few beers. I used to feel good after eating a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting. How people feel is only useful up to a point. Carbs made me feel good, but the cumulative damage they caused, not so much. Likewise, yeah, you might feel good eating lard all the time. The issue is whether you're eating it to the exclusion of other items and causing biochemical/metabolic deficits or problems.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on May 31, 2010
at 06:56 PM

@pfw --- I think the Vitamin C connection to scurvy has been debunked. I want to say that Taubes wrote about that, but I could be wrong. If I remember correctly, the idea is not that the Vitamin C in limes cured a deficiency - but that the constant rations of (wheat-based) biscuits caused it. Something like that.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 27, 2010
at 03:53 PM

You have to remember that a lot of bone density is genetic. Where did Stefansson ever say you can live just on steaks? Either way, I don't worry about this diet much because the people it would really show symptoms are would be pregnant women and children and I've only met picky single men doing this diet.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 27, 2010
at 03:47 PM

@Matthew: Well, that and other Inuit osteoporosis studies show that they could have been deficient in vitamin D or calcium or both. Even eating raw wild caught salmon might not be able to make up for a near total lack of normal vitamin D synthesis for a good portion of the year. But again, reconciling Inuit osteoporosis with Lex Rooker's DEXA scan and improving bone health is somewhat difficult; one might expect some individual variation in tolerance for a low calcium diet, but not immunity or, as in Lex's case, bone improvement. No one is made of magic.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 27, 2010
at 03:38 PM

@Melissa: Stefansson then went on to write a book where he goes on about how raw/organs/bone chewing weren't necessary. I guess he could have suddenly decided to lie about what he ate all those years, but that assumption would be somewhat hard to justify. And again: my beef is with the statement that one must eat "a lot" of offal, as if you have to be eating liver every week in order to not "look quite unwell" or otherwise develop crippling disease over time. That strikes me as far too strong a statement given the available evidence.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on May 27, 2010
at 01:16 PM

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/27/9/916 It does not prove anything but it is interesting to read.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 27, 2010
at 11:47 AM

Why would you chose a diet that has never been eaten or tested, probably because most scientists would be dismissive of it? Vilhjalmur did not eat just muscle meat- he ate fish and organ meats. Well, enough people I know are doing this muscle meat only diet that I wish scientists would do a study. I can sell you that the people I know who do it look quite unwell.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 27, 2010
at 10:46 AM

I completely agree that such a diet untested, at least in the sense of there being little available modern scientific evidence. However, that puts you in a state of uncertainty, not certainty like you appear to be in. I'm not disputing that you can have long term deficiencies, merely being precise: muscle meat diets do not produce acute deficiency disease. I'm disputing the idea that a muscle meat or meat only diet generates long term deficiency because there is no evidence that it does, and because everyone who asserts the danger has done zero testing to test their assertion.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 27, 2010
at 02:55 AM

You should really look up that term on Google scholar. I don't always have time to hunt down papers, but they are there. Also, many nutrients deficiencies only occur during early development or pregnancy. I assume you won't be experiencing these things... What people eating only muscle meat don't seem to understand is that their diet is just as untested and new as veganism, though certainly obviously more appropriate. Muscle meat is certainly a better choice than what one friend on mine does on his "paleo" diet, which is to eat mainly chicken.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 27, 2010
at 01:31 AM

Oh, incidentally, I do eat liver on rare occasion. Maybe once a month. My issue is with the assertion that one must eat "a lot" of offal in order to obtain some unstated health benefit, and with the lack of skeptical testing of the various claims made about vitamins and minerals in the paleo community. We're really all experimenting here, because no one has any real clue what their ancestors actually ate.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 27, 2010
at 12:55 AM

Indeed, which would not result in beriberi or scurvy. Which is my point - a true, named deficiency disease. Which leaves the vague, unspecific and untestable assertion of "long term subclinical deficiency" - the available experimental evidence suggests that there is no such risk, but that evidence is sketchy. In order to test any given deficiency hypothesis, one must actually state it for testing; that's what I'm begging for here, some hypothesis which accounts for the existing facts and makes a prediction. As of now, I just have the vague unease of the crowd, which does not a hypothesis make.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 26, 2010
at 11:23 PM

"t doesn't really take that long at all if you generate true deficiencies." Not true, but a common misconception. Deficiencies can be chronic and subclinical.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 26, 2010
at 11:21 PM

And why would I get osteoperosis? Come on guys, don't just yell out random potential health risks, suggest a mechanism by which they would occur and a reason why people like Lex don't have them. Ie, his bone health improved and was above normal for his age (see link at end). Again, I don't doubt that it's possible for this to be a deficient way of life. I just wish that people who believed it was would attempt to reconcile their beliefs with experimental evidence - in other words, be truly skeptical. http://www.paleonu.com/panu-weblog/2009/9/22/bone-density-assessment.html

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on May 26, 2010
at 10:36 PM

Working out recommended intakes of vitamins and minerals is a complex task that has been going on for decades. Requirements for individuals tend to follow a bell curve with a few outliers needing small or large amounts. Be careful of rare individuals that remain healthy on extreme diets. There is always someone who can smoke 60 cigarettes a day and live to a healthy old age, doesn't mean it will be good for you. If you're happy experimenting on yourself that's fine, but if you end up with osteoporosis in ten years let everyone know, it would be useful information.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 26, 2010
at 07:12 PM

It doesn't really take that long at all if you generate true deficiencies. True deficiency diseases are acute - see beriberi or scurvy. I'm clearly deficient in vitamin C - in fact, I should have had scurvy months ago. Yet I don't. So what does that say about the RDA for vitamin C, or any of the vitamins for that matter? In fact, what metric are you using for the "low" statement?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 26, 2010
at 06:43 PM

I can't say because I don't know what cuts you are eating of what meats. If you are literally just eating t-bones, according to Nutritiondata, you would be low in calcium, manganese, folate, A, C, E, and K- though it varies based on the animal and the animal's diet. Iodine would also be low. It would take a really long time and a pretty terrible diet to actually kill yourself with a diet inappropriate for humans. Look at all the vegans around- some of them have been vegans for decades and have children who have been vegan through conception. Tolerated is not optimal.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 26, 2010
at 01:54 PM

I should note that I'm completely open to the idea that I'm causing a vitamin or mineral deficiency in my body by doing a Bear diet. But until someone can give me a plausible explanation of why I'm not dead yet, it's hard to conclude that I'm deficient in anything. Common long term deficiencies like B complex are addressed by the diet, and something acute like Vitamin C deficiency, (C has a half-life of maybe 30 minutes in your blood), clearly just isn't happening. Is there some specific vitamin or mineral that you would predict deficiency in?

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 26, 2010
at 01:18 PM

About ten months now. Looking around the internets, probably the longest running contemporary example is Lex Rooker, going on year four. And then of course Owsley Stanley, if you believe him, going on six decades. Incidentally, the essence of science is the testing of ideas by experiment. Have you tested your ideas on vitamins and minerals? Might I see the results? I admit a mild amusement when people declare that I "have" to eat something to be healthy without providing any actual test of their particular theory - the whole "you need to eat brains" thing is a new one, but no different.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 26, 2010
at 12:29 PM

Yeah, I know people who have been literally eating only fruit for years and keep saying how great they feel. The acid test for a diet is the children it produces.

A727956fa3f943057c4edb08ad9e864e

(4183)

on May 26, 2010
at 12:26 PM

Very well said! People seem to forget that it takes years and years for a deficiency to show up, and even then it might not be immediately apparent that the symptoms are the result of deficiency. Just because you're healthier than the average person, doesn't mean you're as healthy as you could be!

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 26, 2010
at 11:41 AM

How long have you been doing this?

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 26, 2010
at 10:08 AM

As a steak nosher who isn't dying of vitamin deficiency, I guess I have to wonder if it matters if I'm emulating anything if I'm healthy. A lot of people seem to speculate that one needs all of these vitamins and minerals but then ignore those of us who don't die when we don't eat lots of vegetables in butter or whatever.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on May 26, 2010
at 04:48 AM

We don't need vegetables blah blah blah. ;-)

03aeff8d87a3b53a449b5b8e9158da98

(3268)

on May 26, 2010
at 01:23 AM

All votes, no answers! That means it's a good question.

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5 Answers

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10
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 26, 2010
at 02:03 AM

There just isn't a fat like brain fat and it's probably the most prized part of a kill to hunter-gatherers. Brain has saturated fat, but it's also a prize of DHA, minerals, and vitamins.

Unfortunately I don't find it very appetizing and neither do most Westerners. Plus it's hard to buy at the store. A good replacement for brain would be vegetables sauteed in lots of pastured butter. The fat allows you to absorb more of the vitamins and minerals in vegetables and also provides fat-soluble vitamins absent in vegetables.

Of course I'm going to get responses to this answer about how we don't need vegetables blah blah blah. Yeah you don't need them if you are eating lots of brains, eyeballs, marrow, and other nasty bits. The cream-chuggers and steak noshers will probably get on my case for saying this...but their diet does not do a complete job of emulating the diets of our paleolithic ancestors.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on May 26, 2010
at 04:48 AM

We don't need vegetables blah blah blah. ;-)

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 27, 2010
at 02:55 AM

You should really look up that term on Google scholar. I don't always have time to hunt down papers, but they are there. Also, many nutrients deficiencies only occur during early development or pregnancy. I assume you won't be experiencing these things... What people eating only muscle meat don't seem to understand is that their diet is just as untested and new as veganism, though certainly obviously more appropriate. Muscle meat is certainly a better choice than what one friend on mine does on his "paleo" diet, which is to eat mainly chicken.

A727956fa3f943057c4edb08ad9e864e

(4183)

on May 26, 2010
at 12:26 PM

Very well said! People seem to forget that it takes years and years for a deficiency to show up, and even then it might not be immediately apparent that the symptoms are the result of deficiency. Just because you're healthier than the average person, doesn't mean you're as healthy as you could be!

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 26, 2010
at 06:43 PM

I can't say because I don't know what cuts you are eating of what meats. If you are literally just eating t-bones, according to Nutritiondata, you would be low in calcium, manganese, folate, A, C, E, and K- though it varies based on the animal and the animal's diet. Iodine would also be low. It would take a really long time and a pretty terrible diet to actually kill yourself with a diet inappropriate for humans. Look at all the vegans around- some of them have been vegans for decades and have children who have been vegan through conception. Tolerated is not optimal.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 27, 2010
at 03:47 PM

@Matthew: Well, that and other Inuit osteoporosis studies show that they could have been deficient in vitamin D or calcium or both. Even eating raw wild caught salmon might not be able to make up for a near total lack of normal vitamin D synthesis for a good portion of the year. But again, reconciling Inuit osteoporosis with Lex Rooker's DEXA scan and improving bone health is somewhat difficult; one might expect some individual variation in tolerance for a low calcium diet, but not immunity or, as in Lex's case, bone improvement. No one is made of magic.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 26, 2010
at 12:29 PM

Yeah, I know people who have been literally eating only fruit for years and keep saying how great they feel. The acid test for a diet is the children it produces.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on May 27, 2010
at 01:16 PM

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/27/9/916 It does not prove anything but it is interesting to read.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 26, 2010
at 10:08 AM

As a steak nosher who isn't dying of vitamin deficiency, I guess I have to wonder if it matters if I'm emulating anything if I'm healthy. A lot of people seem to speculate that one needs all of these vitamins and minerals but then ignore those of us who don't die when we don't eat lots of vegetables in butter or whatever.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 27, 2010
at 01:31 AM

Oh, incidentally, I do eat liver on rare occasion. Maybe once a month. My issue is with the assertion that one must eat "a lot" of offal in order to obtain some unstated health benefit, and with the lack of skeptical testing of the various claims made about vitamins and minerals in the paleo community. We're really all experimenting here, because no one has any real clue what their ancestors actually ate.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 27, 2010
at 11:47 AM

Why would you chose a diet that has never been eaten or tested, probably because most scientists would be dismissive of it? Vilhjalmur did not eat just muscle meat- he ate fish and organ meats. Well, enough people I know are doing this muscle meat only diet that I wish scientists would do a study. I can sell you that the people I know who do it look quite unwell.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 26, 2010
at 07:12 PM

It doesn't really take that long at all if you generate true deficiencies. True deficiency diseases are acute - see beriberi or scurvy. I'm clearly deficient in vitamin C - in fact, I should have had scurvy months ago. Yet I don't. So what does that say about the RDA for vitamin C, or any of the vitamins for that matter? In fact, what metric are you using for the "low" statement?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 26, 2010
at 11:23 PM

"t doesn't really take that long at all if you generate true deficiencies." Not true, but a common misconception. Deficiencies can be chronic and subclinical.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 27, 2010
at 12:55 AM

Indeed, which would not result in beriberi or scurvy. Which is my point - a true, named deficiency disease. Which leaves the vague, unspecific and untestable assertion of "long term subclinical deficiency" - the available experimental evidence suggests that there is no such risk, but that evidence is sketchy. In order to test any given deficiency hypothesis, one must actually state it for testing; that's what I'm begging for here, some hypothesis which accounts for the existing facts and makes a prediction. As of now, I just have the vague unease of the crowd, which does not a hypothesis make.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on May 26, 2010
at 10:36 PM

Working out recommended intakes of vitamins and minerals is a complex task that has been going on for decades. Requirements for individuals tend to follow a bell curve with a few outliers needing small or large amounts. Be careful of rare individuals that remain healthy on extreme diets. There is always someone who can smoke 60 cigarettes a day and live to a healthy old age, doesn't mean it will be good for you. If you're happy experimenting on yourself that's fine, but if you end up with osteoporosis in ten years let everyone know, it would be useful information.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 26, 2010
at 11:21 PM

And why would I get osteoperosis? Come on guys, don't just yell out random potential health risks, suggest a mechanism by which they would occur and a reason why people like Lex don't have them. Ie, his bone health improved and was above normal for his age (see link at end). Again, I don't doubt that it's possible for this to be a deficient way of life. I just wish that people who believed it was would attempt to reconcile their beliefs with experimental evidence - in other words, be truly skeptical. http://www.paleonu.com/panu-weblog/2009/9/22/bone-density-assessment.html

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 26, 2010
at 11:41 AM

How long have you been doing this?

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 26, 2010
at 01:18 PM

About ten months now. Looking around the internets, probably the longest running contemporary example is Lex Rooker, going on year four. And then of course Owsley Stanley, if you believe him, going on six decades. Incidentally, the essence of science is the testing of ideas by experiment. Have you tested your ideas on vitamins and minerals? Might I see the results? I admit a mild amusement when people declare that I "have" to eat something to be healthy without providing any actual test of their particular theory - the whole "you need to eat brains" thing is a new one, but no different.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 27, 2010
at 03:53 PM

You have to remember that a lot of bone density is genetic. Where did Stefansson ever say you can live just on steaks? Either way, I don't worry about this diet much because the people it would really show symptoms are would be pregnant women and children and I've only met picky single men doing this diet.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 26, 2010
at 01:54 PM

I should note that I'm completely open to the idea that I'm causing a vitamin or mineral deficiency in my body by doing a Bear diet. But until someone can give me a plausible explanation of why I'm not dead yet, it's hard to conclude that I'm deficient in anything. Common long term deficiencies like B complex are addressed by the diet, and something acute like Vitamin C deficiency, (C has a half-life of maybe 30 minutes in your blood), clearly just isn't happening. Is there some specific vitamin or mineral that you would predict deficiency in?

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 27, 2010
at 10:46 AM

I completely agree that such a diet untested, at least in the sense of there being little available modern scientific evidence. However, that puts you in a state of uncertainty, not certainty like you appear to be in. I'm not disputing that you can have long term deficiencies, merely being precise: muscle meat diets do not produce acute deficiency disease. I'm disputing the idea that a muscle meat or meat only diet generates long term deficiency because there is no evidence that it does, and because everyone who asserts the danger has done zero testing to test their assertion.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on May 27, 2010
at 03:38 PM

@Melissa: Stefansson then went on to write a book where he goes on about how raw/organs/bone chewing weren't necessary. I guess he could have suddenly decided to lie about what he ate all those years, but that assumption would be somewhat hard to justify. And again: my beef is with the statement that one must eat "a lot" of offal, as if you have to be eating liver every week in order to not "look quite unwell" or otherwise develop crippling disease over time. That strikes me as far too strong a statement given the available evidence.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on May 31, 2010
at 06:56 PM

@pfw --- I think the Vitamin C connection to scurvy has been debunked. I want to say that Taubes wrote about that, but I could be wrong. If I remember correctly, the idea is not that the Vitamin C in limes cured a deficiency - but that the constant rations of (wheat-based) biscuits caused it. Something like that.

15
100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on May 26, 2010
at 03:42 AM

Micronutrients aside, animal fats are nutritious because they are a good source of good fats! For instance, beef fat contains oleic acid, which may help boost memory, palmitic acid, which may be anti-mutagenic, and stearic acid, which, along with palmitic is the preferred food for the heart, and others.

Fat is what we run on, so the quality of the fat we ingest is of paramount importance.

1
Medium avatar

on March 07, 2011
at 07:19 PM

I eat liver (finally) and spinach for vitamins/minerals that I don't get from meat and eggs so the fat I consume is for energy and membrane, hormone construction etc. I don't really see why fat has to be particularly nutritious, it just helps you absorb A, D, E and K.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 07, 2011
at 07:04 PM

First off, I feel better when eating grass fed beef lard. Second, how people feel after eating fat is way more valuable information that whatever properties fat supposedly contains. DUH! CAN PEOPLE RESPOND AND SAY IF EATING CERTAIN ANIMAL FAT AND ANIMAL FATS MADE A NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE TO THEM?!

9f9fa49265e03ddd2bf2bba5477a556b

(3184)

on March 07, 2011
at 07:17 PM

I used to feel after eating freshly baked bread slathered in butter. I used to feel good after eating a big bowl of sugary cereal. I definitely feel good after drinking a few beers. I used to feel good after eating a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting. How people feel is only useful up to a point. Carbs made me feel good, but the cumulative damage they caused, not so much. Likewise, yeah, you might feel good eating lard all the time. The issue is whether you're eating it to the exclusion of other items and causing biochemical/metabolic deficits or problems.

0
A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

on May 27, 2010
at 08:07 PM

It's really sad that around here (US) offal is not that popular. When I was a kid growing up in Poland, we were eating a lot of offal, even during the thinner years of meat shortages. I was eating brains (wasn't big fan, but I remember that it tasted more or less like scrambled eggs), kidneys, lungs, hearts, stomachs... One of the staples of Polish cuisine is spicy soup made of sliced guts. YUM :) here I can find gizzards only and liver, hard to do much with it!

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