Physiological considerations would imply that many minor ills of the body would be avoided if only care were taken to include a sufficiency of fat in the diet. Fat, we know, is about the most compact form of fuel which we possess, while it exercises a favorable effect upon the processes of the intestinal tract.
In excessively cold countries a rich, fatty diet is indispensable, for fat is the only food substance which will rapidly replace the heat lost by the body, and travelers in the Arctic regions have related that they could only be kept warm and comfortable by a generous supply of fatty food, in comparison with which the effect of extra clothing was inappreciable. The tendency of today in many quarters is to exclude as much as possible the fatty portions of animal foods.
Pieces of fat are carefully cut off the slice of ham, mutton, or beef, and only the lean parts are eaten. Indeed, for some unaccountable reason the eating of fat is regarded by not a few as positively vulgar. Such an attitude, of course, displays an ignorance of physiological facts. Cold feet, hands, fingers, ears and chilblains could often be avoided under a generous diet of fatty food.
A digestible fat favors nutrition considerably; it spares much waste of the tissue-forming elements of food. When lean meat alone is given large quantities are required in order that nutrition and waste may balance one another, but if fat be added the demand for flesh is less. Besides, therefore, giving an advantage in regard to making good the repair of the body, the use of fat is economical from the point of view of pounds, shillings, and pence.
The absorption of large quantities of fat-less meat, again, tends to overload the blood with nitrogenous waste products. In anemic persons the partaking of an easily digested fat is commonly followed by the best results, nutrition is greatly improved, and the condition of the blood is often restored to normal. It is well known, again, that easily absorbable fats, such as butter, cream, cod-liver oil, bacon fat, and dripping, are especially valuable to sufferers from waiting diseases.
The introduction of the old-fashioned and well-prepared suet pudding into the diet is in perfect accordance with scientific teaching, and from the dietetic point of view, especially in the feeding of young, growing people, does probably a really beneficial service to the country. The assumed aversion to fat on the part of a great many people is silly and mischievous, for there can be little doubt that a reasonable proportion of fat in the diet is calculated to preserve the standard of health. Cases of true repugnance or intolerance do, of course, exist, but on the whole they are rare.—The Lancet.
Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 2, 1908, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.