277 of 288 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2002
This book, written by one of the world's leading lipid biochemists, is a much needed title in today's "fat-phobic" world. Discarding politically correct notions that saturated fats are unhealthy, Dr. Mary Enig presents a thorough, in-depth, and understandable look at the world of lipids.
The publication of Know Your Fats is a rare treat: it is, to this reviewer's knowledge, the ONLY book on fats and oils for the consumer and the professional written by a recognized authority in the field. Virtually all of the titles on fats and oils in print now are either too technical to be accessible by the layman, or are too error-laden to be worth the paper they are printed on.
Mary Enig made her mark in the nutritional world in 1978 when she and her colleagues at the University of Maryland published a now-famous paper in the American journal Federation Proceedings. The paper directly challenged government assertions that higher cancer rates were associated with animal fat consumption. Enig, et al, concluded that the data actually showed vegetable oils and trans-fatty acids to be the culprits in both cancer and heart disease--not naturally saturated fats that people have been eating for millennia. In the ensuing years, Enig and her colleagues focused their work on determining the trans-fatty acid content of various food items, as well as publishing research that clearly demonstrated TFA's to be potent carcinogens, prime factors in heart disease, disruptors of immune function, and worse.
Enig's book begins like any other on lipid biochemistry and discusses the nature of saturates, monounsaturates, polyunsaturates, and trans-fatty acids. Included also is a revealing discussion of cholesterol and its vital importance to the body. The first chapter also clearly discusses the molecular structure of different fatty acids (with diagrams) and presents the metabolic conversion products of each of the major fatty acids (oleic, linoleic, linolenic, and palmitoleic).
The physiology of fats and cholesterol is fully covered in chapter two. Almost half of this chapter is devoted to shattering popular myths about saturated fats and their roles as disease promoters. Not mincing any words, Enig methodically demonstrates the faulty data and reasoning behind the ideas that saturates either cause or contribute to heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, mental illness, obesity, and cerebrovascular disease. For example, after trashing the "data" that supposedly prove that beef and beef fat caused colon cancer, Enig flatly concludes: "And now, more than three (3) decades after the initial fraudulent report, the anti-animal fat hypothesis continues to lead the nutrition agenda. It was a false issue then, and it remains a false issue today."
Subsequent chapters deal with fats historically used in Western diets; the fatty acid composition of various oils and fats such as coconut, butter, lard, and olive oil; and a succinct summary of "fat facts." The book is rounded out by detailed appendices on definitions, fatty acids in a huge number of foods, and molecular compositions of major fatty acids.
What is most telling, however, is Enig's insider take on the nutritional research world and the forces at play that manipulate the facts. Never one to shy away from controversy, Enig makes some pretty strong indictments of such organizations as the American Dietetics Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the American Heart Association, and the food industry in general. More shocking are her thoughts on research scientists:
"The common scenario is that of a highly intelligent person . . . who finds a research task that will lead to funding from the food and/or pharmaceutical industry or from the industry-controlled government agencies. If that research shows an adverse effect of any of the new foods studied, this is frequently ignored. . . . Of course, the research that is done by the industry-supported scientists is good basic research, and it usually is of great interest so as long as it supports the food industry or avoids a clash with the industry it is promoting. What seems so ironic, is that the very foods (saturated fats and cholesterol) that people are avoiding are the very foods that are healthful. When it comes to fat, this really has become the age of the flat earth."
Hopefully, Know Your Fats will help make the earth round once more.
114 of 117 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2000
The role of fats and oils in human health has received enormous attention in recent years. Popular media are filled with articles about dietary fat, and what we should and should not be eating. Medical organizations such as the American Heart Association have recently published new guidelines concerning new dietary recommendations with an increased emphasis on omega-3 oils - [...]
While this book is primarily for the layman, it provides a sufficient detailed overview of lipid biology, biochemistry and physiology that professional readers will find it very useful. Journalists who write about these health areas should be especially encouraged to study it. Indeed, anyone seeking an understanding of the role that dietary fats play in human health and disease should give this a read. The style is succinct and jargon free, with many illustrations and useful tables that not only facilitate an understanding of the material covered, but serve as a source of information for future reference. It provides an in-depth discussion of the many facts and fantasies regarding dietary fats and oils. A General Glossary of terms, common to fats and oils in foods and lipids in biological systems, is included at the end of the book.
A distinctive aspect of the book is the challenge to the scientific community which she feels is partly responsible for propagating many of our current misunderstanding regarding the health risks and benefits of various dietary fats. Dr. Enig was an early and outspoken critic of the use of trans fatty acids and has advocated their inclusion in nutritional labeling, so that we can more easily avoid them. In addition to her views on partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, she is critical of other mainstream beliefs, including the decision to vilify tropical oils many years ago. She feels that their virtual exclusion from our current diet has been detrimental to our health. In her support of including these and other saturated fats in our diet, such as those in dairy products, she places herself outside the conventional establishment. The challenges she presents to the food industry and the scientific community should help prevent complacency in this important and evolving arena.
114 of 118 people found the following review helpful
This is quite simply the best book available on lipid chemistry in nutrition that is accessible to non-scientists. It lists and describes the actions of fats in our diet, and the role fats play in our body chemistry and health. Dr. Enig takes us all the way from chemical formulas and molecular diagrams to descriptions of various kinds of oils and fats used in cooking, as well as the sources and makeup of different types of oils and fats.
Dr. Enig pulls no punches in discussing misunderstood or misused research, and this honesty is welcome and refreshing, not to mention possibly life saving. It is so tiresome trying to wade through the hype and PR noise around nutrition. Like medical research, the food business is about Big Money, and truth seems to be a stranger to that part of our society. More and more, one must become an informed advocate for one's own health and welfare. This book is an important tool for the enlightened consumer.
The book is well written in a very clear style with no extraneous scientific jargon. It is well referenced and cited, which I like in a book that discusses scientific research. These days people have much more access to original research papers than ever before.
If you get only one book on fats in your diet, this should be it. The research and information is solid, free of fads and commercial influence.
71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2001
This is one of the better nutrition books available today. I learned a lot, and Dr. Enig wrote it in a way that made it understandable to the non-lipid chemists among us who would be reading it. She has done the world a great service by explaining the real place in the human diet for saturated fats and cholesterol. I "lived" on a fat-free diet for about 15 years, and in that time managed to disrupt every major endocrine and metabolic process in my body. When I came to my senses (thanks to a book called "The Metabolic Trap" by Calvin Ezrin, MD), and began to add meat and fat back into my diet, I was able to reverse EVERY SINGLE SYMPTOM. With no medications, no special medical treatment, no doctors, I restored my health by simply replacing SATURATED FATS in my diet. Nothing else. My overall cholesterol at my last test was 179, and my blood pressure remains in the low-normal range. This book vindicated what I had already figured out, and explained it in terms simple enough for anyone to understand. I used up a whole yellow marker on it, and was pleased with the careful and thorough way she explained each fatty acid and its role in metabolism. I am really glad she stood her ground in the face of the criticism I am sure she suffered for her stand, which is 180 degrees opposed to the current medical "wisdom" of "Eat lots of carbs!" "Don't eat saturated fats!" "Don't eat cholesterol!" The standard American diet (correctly and aptly acronymed "SAD") is a mishmosh that consists of 65% BREAD ("complex carbohydrates"). This, in the nation that had the highest-protein diet in the world until somebody came up with the stupidly misguided idea that dietary fat equaled body fat, and that essential saturated fatty acids were somehow responsible for heart attacks. How this "fact" was arrived at in view of HISTORICAL facts of primitive and modern unrefined diets, I will never understand. Thanks, Dr. Enig. I hope you write another book about saturated fats in the diet and metabolism, and I hope I'm the first person to read it! [...]
44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2002
I first learned of this book about two years ago when listening to The People's Pharmacy on National Public Radio. Dr. Enig was the special guest that day and talked with hosts Joe and Terry Graedon about Knowing Your Fats and its recurring themes revolving around the essential roles that fats and oils can play in our daily diet.
One of her themes was that diets have been so badly stereotyped in the West that many Americans, including nutritionists and physicians, have come to propose that the only healthy diet is that of a strict vegetarian. She then stated that,in contrast to this widely held opinion, the typical diet in China, where the citizens are regarded as typically healthy by these same individuals advocationg strict vegetarianism, is far from free of animal products and by-products. She said that, in fact, a main cooking additive in the Chinese diet is lard, a fat that has been labeled, perhaps mislabeled, as a contributor to heart disease and obesity.
Dr. Enig then continued that consumer activists who are trying to eliminate animal fats and coconut oils from food products either have been or still are misinformed. She stated that many of these advocates, despite their good intentions of contributing to a healthier American population, want the food manufacturers to replace animal fats with partially hydrogenated oils and fats that, according to the studies of her and her colleagues, are even more harmful than the former. For instance, their findings concluded that trans fatty acids from partial hydrogenation can further contribute to heart disease in the following ways: 1. decrease the amount of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), 2.increase the amount of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), and 3. hamper one's ability to keep insulin levels under control.
All in all, the above are just a few of several topics well-detailed in Knowing Your Fats. Included in the book are charts that categorize the types of fats and oils that can be used in cooking and how each can be beneficial and/or harmful for one's health.
Dr. Enig has done an excellent job with this book. I highly recommend it.
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2000
Know Your Fats is a little gem that will be of interest to anyone seeking an understanding of the role that dietary fats play in human health and disease. Written in a succinct and jargon free style, Dr. Enig's book provides a comprehensive, yet understandable, overview of lipid biology, biochemistry and physiology. The book is literally crammed with attractive illustrations and useful tables that not only facilitate an understanding of the material covered, but serve as a source of information for future reference. Although written for the layman, the book will be of interest to scientists, physicians and health-care workers who seek a contemporary overview of this continually evolving field.
77 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2005
Ignore the anonymous "reader"'s review titled "Disappointing." Anonymous reviews immediately create a suspect impression. For all anyone might know, the "reader" could be a well-known other "author" of a popular book on fats. The "reader" in his review does not come up with a cohesive enough overview on why Dr. Enig's book is "disappointing." He complains of issues that has nothing to do with Dr. Enig's research as a scientist, how the chemical structures and patterns of fatty acids *and* most importantly, how they work in the human body. He does not prove in any way of how Dr. Enig's knowledge of lipid chemistry fails. His assertion that the fatty acids in animal fat has changed from 100 years ago is a no-brainer and a plainly dumb arguing point: of course the quality of the fatty acids have changed, because most of the way animals are raised today is so different from how they were 100 years ago: conditions, feeding, and treatment. The only way one may compare a cow from 100 years ago is to raise them on pastures, in organic methods.It is a self-evident factor that we should only be eating animals raised naturally, out of warehouses, without synthetic injections.
The most important thing to remember about this book is that Dr. Enig has the kind of information and research that should be the basis for every single dietary and health-related consideration. This book is a virtual warning on how modern, processed fats might very well be the most crucial health menace our society faces. Considering all that Dr. Enig knows, we are headed for nutritional health disaster unless the government, doctors, medical institutions and food producers pay heed to the alarming indifference of what kind of stuff is being put into the bodies of humans and animals. The chemically processed fats that are in all factory made foods are virtual poisons which have, and threaten to endanger the health of humans and animals. We're talking here about substances which the human body not only cannot recognize genetically, but to which the cells react in a very negative way: what this amounts to is an insidious compromise of the very protective forces of our bodies were given to us by nature. The damaged polyunsaturates in mass-produced oils and trans fats, with their rancid profiles and corrupted forms, can actually foster the kinds of free-radicals and inflammations which invite disease, decay and degeneration. Dr. Enig's research proves that old-fashioned, nature-made fats from animals, tropical oils, certain seeds, are the only ones we should be eating. The author's straightforward treatises behind her scientific analysis is sound, easy to understand, and irrefutably based on logic. It is unfortunate that Udo Erasmus' book on the same topic has gained such wide currency (its title was boldly "marketable"), because Enig's book is based on true science rather than contradictory, questionable methods of presenting data.
This book is a brilliant piece of research contained in such a volume, and should be the textbook for home, school, lab, medical institutions and most of all, every concerned government. It's that important. Our health depends on it.
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2005
This book provides the truth about dietary fats and exposes the false information that endangers our health. The vegetable oil industry has promoted the idea that saturated fats are bad and that hydrogenated vegetable oils are good. The opposite is true. Saturated fats are a normal and necessary component of a healthy diet, and trans fats, which result from the hydrogenation of vegetable oils, are harmful. Dr. Enig explains the chemistry, molecular structure, and functions of fats in a way that is easy to understand. She makes a convincing case that a healthy diet includes a substantial portion of calories from fats, which should include saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats of various molecular chain lengths and configurations.
Read this book. The information it contains can prolong your life and improve its quality.
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2005
Americans have demonized fats and blamed them for nearly every ill that can befall the human body. Health-conscious consumers scarf down "low fat" and "no fat" products in the sure, though mistaken, belief that "less is more." Yet we desperately need a variety of good fats - and goodly amounts of them -- for optimum energy, endurance, immunity, brain power and overall good health. This book tells everything you ever wanted to know about which fats are good, which are bad - and why. Until "Know Your Fats" was published, the only available books on this important subject were either massive, highly technical textbooks written by scientists or inaccurate, incomplete popular books cobbled together by amateurs or sellers of health-food store essential oil supplements. In contrast, Dr. Mary Enig is a world renowned expert on the roles of dietary fats and oils in human health and committed to accurately simplifying and sharing this vital information with the public. She was one of the first to challenge the still widely held assumption that saturated fats and cholesterol cause heart disease and cancer and to establish that margarine and other hydrogenated fats contribute to and even cause heart disease, cancer and other ills. Most recently, Dr. Enig has moved ahead of the pack yet again with her research on coconut oil, a much maligned and misunderstood saturated fat that is proving its mettle in patients suffering from compromised immune systems. "Know Your Fats" is a Bible for nutritionists, health practitioners, journalists and anyone else who wants to learn the whole truth and nothing but the truth about fats, oils and cholesterol.
61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2001
For years Americans have been fed a diet of misinformation on the importnat subject of dietary fats and oils. This misinformation encourages the consumption of imitation foods based on highly processed vegetable oils and mitigates against the consumption of healthy traditional fats like butter, tallow and coconut oil. Although this misinformation often originates with the very food companies that profit from such misguidance, it also permeates the vast majority of scholarly and popular books on the subject, books that may seem ojbective and factual but which in fact bolster the trend towards processed foods.
Mary Enig's book is the exception. Both scholarly and readable, Know Your Fats sorts out fact from fiction in this controversial field. Enig is a highly qualified specialist in the subject of lipids, trained at the University of Maryland under pioneering researchers. She is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition and President of the Maryland Nutritionists' Association. Most importantly, Enig was the first to speak out about the dangers of trans fatty acids in the food supply. She held her ground in spite of industry blackballing and the professional cold-shoulder that ensued. Today she enjoys the satisfaction of having been right.
Readers of Know Your Fats should be prepared for some suprises. They'll learn about the health benefits of saturated fats, the importance of cholesterol, dangers of polyunsaturates, flaws in the lipid theory of heart disease, what's left out of nutrition labeling, errors in the official data bases (used in many research projects) and the dangerous substitute ingredients that have quietly permeated the American food supply. Anyone interested in the subject of diet and health needs to obtain this book, read it thoroughly and refer to it often.