Thursday, 9 August 2007

Fat: not so evil after all?

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Fat. Never a good thing, right? At least not in the US, where food is super-abundant. Instead of being rightly grateful for all that food, we blame it for our weight woes. Yes, there's a growing sense that food is the enemy. Food leads to weight gain, which leads to obesity, which leads to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and on and on. (Read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma for more on what he terms "our national eating disorder.")

But apparently there's a silver lining in all that fat. Says journalist Natalie Angier for The New York Times, "to castigate fat for getting too big and to blame it for high blood pressure or a wheezing heart is like a heavy drinker blaming the liver for turning cirrhotic." That is, if the body couldn't convert energy to fat cells in an efficient manner we'd really be up the proverbial creek. In fact, evolutionary biologists have even speculated that humans' ability to store good-sized quantities of fat has aided the survival of the species and made it possible for our big brains to grow so big and, um, brainy. The fat, you see, helps us through hard times. Food for thought, huh?

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