Know Your Fats!
A Review of Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol, by Mary G. Enig, PhD
Bethseda Press, 2001
August 14, 2005
Reviewed by Chris Masterjohn
Know Your Fats has the distinction of being the only book about fats written for a popular audience and by an actual lipid scientist.
Dr. Mary Enig is a nutritional consultant, has advised state and Federal governments, and served as a Contributing Editor of the journal Clinical Nutrition and Consulting Editor of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Dr. Enig is also a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, and President of the Maryland Nutritionists Association.
Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Enig was one of the first major critics of trans fats, many years before the bad news about trans fats broke into the popular press.
Who Should Buy Know Your Fats?
While this book doesn't carry the excitement of the politically charged tale of folly and deception in research told by The Cholesterol Myths, it is an excellent resource for anyone interested in gaining a basic education about fats and oil.
This book is primarily for two types of people:
- those who understand biochemistry and frequently need a reference for properties of lipids.
- those who don't know the first thing about fats and would like to familiarize themselves with the basic biochemistry of fats.
The book also contains recommendations, but Mary Enig is the Vice-President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, whose website can be accessed for similar recommendations.
This book answers such questions as:
- What is the difference between a saturated fat and an unsaturated fat?
- What is the difference between a fat and a fatty acid?
- Just what is a trans fatty acid?
- What functions do fats and cholesterol play in the body?
- What is the nutritional value of different types of fat?
Pictures of fat, fatty acid, and cholesterol molecules abound in the book, making the concepts very easy to visualize. The information is detailed and scientific, but written in a way that is easy for the reader to understand.
Dr. Enig discusses the history of fat consumption as well as the history of public recommendations on fat intake. Dr. Enig's own recommendations differ from typical recommendations: "Don't fear cholesterol," and "Don't fear saturated fats," for example. She demonstrates the positive role that saturated fats and cholesterol play in the body, which is a welcome change from the typical misinformation about fats usually available in the popular press.
She also clears up a powerful misunderstanding. In her extensive discussion of trans fats, Dr. Enig lays to rest the myth that animal fats are a source of harmful trans fats. The trans in natural, animal fats are different fats than those found in hydrogenated oils, and are widely believed to have health benefits. Thus, it is hydrogenation that is the problem-- not trans fats per se.
The potential of this book as a reference material is impressive. It breaks down the nutritional and fatty acid composition of every type of fat and oil consumed, the breakdown of different types of fats in foods, the physical properties of different fats and oils, and a listing of all fatty acids, their chemical characteristics, and their sources.
Know Your Fats belongs on the shelf of anyone needing a reference for information on fats and oils, and deserves a read by anyone interested in receiving a basic education about fats by a practicing lipid scientist, unaffected by the advice of politically correct nutrition.
Buy Know Your Fats.