A year or so ago I posted on the fact that most of the vitamins and other phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables are fat soluble and, therefore, not absorbed when said fruits and vegetables are eaten…unless they are eaten with fat.
The front page of the Personal Journal section of today’s Wall Street Journal has an article (available on through subscription) by the healthy columnist Tara Parker-Pope on this very issue. Whereas I wrote in general terms that most of the flavonoids, carotenoids and other nutrients are fat soluble, Ms. Parker-Pope does me one better and actually gives the ratios of absorption with and without accompanying fat. She relied on reports from several researchers for her accuracy and peppers her article with the expected amount of hand wringing about the dangers of that ol’ devil saturated fat.
She reports on a study of the nutrient absorption from fat-free salsa with and without extra fat.
For the salsa study, 11 test subjects were first given a meal of fat-free salsa and some bread. Another day, the same meal was offered, but this time avocado was added to the salsa, boosting the fat content of the meal to about 37% of calories. In checking blood levels of the test subjects, researchers found that the men and women absorbed an average of 4.4 times as much lycopene and 2.6 times as much beta carotene when the avocado was added to the food.
A study using salad with and without avocado was even more impressive.
The first salad included romaine lettuce, baby spinach, shredded carrots and a no-fat dressing, resulting in a fat content of about 2%. After avocado was added, the fat content jumped to 42%. When the salad was consumed with the avocado, the 11 test subjects absorbed seven times the lutein and nearly 18 times the beta carotene. Lutein is a carotenoid found in many green vegetables and is linked with improved eye and heart health.
Another study done a few years ago at Ohio State University showed that salad dressing with oil brings out the best in a salad when compared to no-fat, low-fat dressings.
When the seven test subjects consumed salads with no-fat dressing, the absorption of carotenoids was negligible. When a reduced-fat dressing was used, the added fat led to a higher absorption of alpha and beta carotene and lycopene. But there was substantially more absorption of the healthful compounds when full-fat dressing was used.
Researchers, who are often taken aback when fat does anything good, were astounded.
Study researchers say they were not only surprised by how much more absorption occurred with the avocado added to the meal, but they were taken aback at how little the body absorbed when no fats were present. “The fact that so little was absorbed when no fat was there was just amazing to me,” says Dr. Clinton.
No matter how much good comes from it, no academic researcher worth his (or her) salt could ever utter a sentence in which fat comes off looking good without shedding caveats like dandruff.
The article ends in a blizzard of ‘don’t overdo the fats’ and ‘choose heart-healthy unsaturated fats’ and watch ‘the overall fat content of the meal’ and all the rest of the idiocy that these folks think they have to say to avoid being accused of recommending fat.
As for me, I’m gonna go have a pile of ribs prepared by my lovely wife along with some slaw and sliced tomatoes. And given the amount of fat I’m going to eat, I suspect I’ll snake every bit of lycopene, carotenoid, and flavonoid out of later two dishes. The majority of the fat I will eat will not be of the heart healthy variety, at least as defined by the nimrods quoted above. In fact, the amount of fat I’ll leave on my napkin will be enough to send them into apoplexy. But, hey, I just went and gave blood yesterday, and my blood pressure was 117/63 and my pulse was 59 after a breakfast of bacon and eggs and about four cups of Cafe Americano. Not bad for an old man on no medications who eats a lot of saturated fat.
Next post will be about the article I’m sure you’ve all heard of by now ‘showing’ that saturated fat–even one meal thereof–causes bad vascular changes. Until then…don’t believe everything you read. Unless it’s on this site, of course.