Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fat Tea: like guiness but tea (Including a descant on fat types like coconut oil) There's an old saw about Guiness - it's the beer that drinks like a meal. That can certainly be true. But if one's passion is less for beer, and say, more towards tea, and let's also say we're keen to get our protein and fats in, and also want to enhance our satiety, and maybe improve our energy expenditure, i may have a drink for you. To the best of my knowledge, i think i've concocted this, and call it Fat Tea.

Fat Tea consists of 
The makings of Fat Tea: black tea, organic
whole milk, ginger and organic coconut oil
  • steeped Yorkshire Gold Tea (i really enjoy the taste of this bagged UK tea)
  • Whole Organic Milk (from happy cows - where i live that's usually a brand called Duchy) to taste 1-2 oz.
  • Fresh Ginger (steeped with tea to taste) 
  • - le piéce de resistance - Organic Coconut Oil (like a gram or so per cup or mug of tea) - in the uk i get coconoil by mail order.

Oh wow, that's intensely satisfying: protein, fat, very low carbs, a bit of caffeine and other good things associated with tea.

But wait, you may be saying, isn't Fat tea, well, rather fat? 
Let's see: 2 grams of cocunut oil is 18kcals of medium chain triglycerides. 2 ozs (i like a lot of milk in my tea) of whole milk is 37.5kcals, so yup, total cals are 55.5.  Compared with black tea on its own (zero kcals) or with two ozs of skim milk (21.5kcals) or two oz's of 2% (31.25) - well ya, there's more fat, so sure; more calories than black tea.

The Skinny on Fat Tea Fats
So let's talk about the Fat for a sec, the coconut oil fat and the whole milk fat, and why you may want to choose these 56kcals in happy fat tea once a day (i like mine in the evening), rather than say a cookie or some starchy carby thing.

Fat Profile - reminder: fat is good.
Fat is Amazing and Good - not evil.  We need fat; it's our primary source of fuel for our bodies (i've written about this before), and it serves a TON of roles in our bodies - not just for fuel, but as the wrappers of EACH AND EVERY cell in our bodies. It's the insulation on the white matter of our brains; it's the wrapping of our viscera; it's the mylenation that suports our nervous system learning; it's building blocks for hormones we need to function well.

And on top of all this, it is the primary energy system for our bodies. I read a page awhile ago that said that fat is a back up energy system when we run out of blood sugar. That's really misleading. That sounds like blood sugar is our primary fuel. Nope. It's not. Fat is our primary fuel. You sitting reading this on the couch: you're oxidising PRIMARILY fat. We'll talk about glucose some other day. Main thing: FAT is good - there are - like proteins - essential fats too (you know, the omega's).

If you're doing Dairy, Whole Milk Can be Fun
On a pure taste level, a whole fat milk is generally sweeter (it's the milk sugars in the lactose, as i understand it). The texture is also creamier. That's all from the Fat. 

Fat Variety in Milk
There are all sorts of fats that we need in our diet. Milk has an intriguing range of fats, including saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated - and a mix of short and long chain fats, too.  And milk has about one of the only instances of a type of trans fat, CLA, that's good for us. Transfats are generally considered evil (like margarine), but CLA in milk fats is a keeper. So it's not a bad place to get some of the fats we want. Including (in organic sources especially) Omerga 3's and the very currently trendy ALA (alpha lipoic acid - popular as a fat burner ingredient). Grass feed = apparently good for Omega 3 upping.

Indeed, organic milk is one of the most studied organic products on the planet, apparently, and studies seem to keep showing that organic milk does better with omega 3s overall than non-organic - up to 67% more omega 3's. This result has been found in several studies in the UK over several years now (Ellis 06, Butler 11)

Organic Note  In the UK, organic also means lots of grass feeding and free ranging. It also means no crap (here's a listing).

More Fat types
As we've seen above, milk has a mix of fat types, saturated being about 2/3s of the fat profile of milk.  But is that in and of itself a problem? Well, those cell walls of each cell in our body? They're largely made up of saturated fat. So we need saturated fats for dietary, cellular, hormonal, everything'ish function.  SO why are we constantly told to get the saturated fats out of our diet? Sometimes it's easier to try the Big Hammer approach then deal with subtlety and complexity of the subtly and complexity that is Us.

And as we'll see shortly, the biggies in all of these "must nots" are RATIOS and balance. As i've said repeatedly at b2d, we're complex systems. Single factor thinking like"kill all fat" or "kill this type of fat" or "eliminate fat" - is not an answer. Balance balance balance. Balance.

Indeed, in the saturated fats of milk, are these short chain fatty acids. They're apparently anti-microbial; they stimulate some of the same pathways that the vitamin B part that's niacin does, so may help on the HDL front, too. This doesn't mean O.D. on saturated fats; but it does mean there is a role for them.  WHich brings us to the other fat in Fat Tea

Coconut Oil
I am so late to the Coconut Oil party (overview of coconut oil here). Coconut oil has been getting a big nod because it's a Medium Chain Triglyceride saturated fat, and that's actually supposed to be a good way to help burn fat (and more).  The idea of the chain length is that the short chain means the fat can be metabolized (converted into fuel) faster/easier, which means it's not getting deposited into adipose tissue and potentially increases satiety. One of the key early articles in this space by St Ong and Jones from 2003 is available free online, too (Ong03); St-Ong and Bosarage did a longer study in 2008 and showed again that MCTs, while not a miracle fat burner, contributed to energy expenditure and body comp improvements more so than olive oil in the same amounts (Ong08).

An excellent research review from 2010 by Clegg covers both the advantages and some of the challenges of using MCT's for fat burning. Seems the main studies have been with normal weight rather than obese folks, too, and there are gender effects.

In an interesting study sited by Clegg from 2001, Van Wymelbeke and colleagues found that satiety - the feeling of fullness was improved in the meal AFTER the one where MCTs were eaten.

All that sounds great, doesn't it? And you'll find camps that will say all vegetable oils are evil and should be replaced by butter or coconut oil, or in third place, olive oil (see the Perfect Health Diet as an reference-rich example).

THere are others - some key folks in the American Dietetic Association - who go the other way, and say vegetable oils rock; coconut oil is problematic. We want only PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats) not SaFA (saturated fats) (overview of debate by Zelman 2011).

Tempest in a Tea Pot
I saw one study that looked at replacing dairy with just coconut oil (Choo10) to make a new ice cream. So if you don't care for doing dairy for whatever reason, you may want to try Fat Tea with only coconut oil. I'm keen to try Green Fat Tea, too. Get all those egcgs working with the MCT's. oh my.

The thing is, we need fat; different kinds of fats are good for us, essential even. And sometimes, a little bit of fat can go a long way to do good things.

As in most things with us, trying to say x or y is unequivocally bad is hard to do. With fat, the biggie seems to be ratios: getting the LDL and HDL RATIO right; getting the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio right (closer to 1:1 is better; 4:1 is kinda the outside).

The same thing with ratios of food types.  Hence getting a variety of foods on the plate, and especially a variety of colors on the plate. If it's all browns/yellows, there's a potential issue.

For me, for the end of the day, i love me some Fat Tea.

For the amount of fat i eat otherwise, i'm willing to splurge. That there may be some health benefits and especially that triggered satiety so i'm actually less hungry later, i kinda like too. I also like a square of lindt 85% or higher dark chocolate to go with.

So i'm just saying - if you want to treat yourself to something yummy, you could do worse than Fat Tea.

TASTE: A quick note: some coconut oil i've found tastes more or less like coconut oil. The coconoil organic i get in the UK is very coconutty. The organic i picked up at whole foods last time i was in the states is very neutral.  So if you're not a fan of the coconut taste, you can still do coconut oil, it seems. 

Thanks to Zachariah Salazar for turning me onto coconut oil.

Butler G, Stergiadis S, Seal C, Eyre M, & Leifert C (2011). Fat composition of organic and conventional retail milk in northeast England. Journal of dairy science, 94 (1), 24-36 PMID: 21183013
Clegg ME (2010). Medium-chain triglycerides are advantageous in promoting weight loss although not beneficial to exercise performance. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 61 (7), 653-79 PMID: 20367215

Choo SY, Leong SK, & Henna Lu FS (2010). Physicochemical and sensory properties of ice-cream formulated with virgin coconut oil. Food science and technology international = Ciencia y tecnologia de los alimentos internacional, 16 (6), 531-41 PMID: 21339169

Ellis KA, Innocent G, Grove-White D, Cripps P, McLean WG, Howard CV, & Mihm M (2006). Comparing the fatty acid composition of organic and conventional milk. Journal of dairy science, 89 (6), 1938-50 PMID: 16702257

St-Onge MP, Ross R, Parsons WD, & Jones PJ (2003). Medium-chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men. Obesity research, 11 (3), 395-402 PMID: 12634436

Marie-Pierre St-Onge and Aubrey Bosarge (2008).
Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87 (3), 621-626 Other: NIHMS201761

Van Wymelbeke V, Louis-Sylvestre J, & Fantino M (2001). Substrate oxidation and control of food intake in men after a fat-substitute meal compared with meals supplemented with an isoenergetic load of carbohydrate, long-chain triacylglycerols, or medium-chain triacylglycerols. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 74 (5), 620-30 PMID: 11684530

Zelman K (2011). The great fat debate: a closer look at the controversy-questioning the validity of age-old dietary guidance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111 (5), 655-8 PMID: 21515106

Ps - this was supposed to be a really short article - just the recipe. Dang. Apologies.

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Steve said...

Hi B2D,

Two Questions:

Fat is indeed good for you. But from my studies, it does not seem to be the primary fuel for your body. As a neuroscientist, I am very aware that the brain can ONLY metabolise sugars (such as glucose). Furthermore, whilst you can convert fat into sugar, it is primarily the sugar from your diet which goes to provide nutrients to your brain, followed by the store of glucose in your liver, and finally by fat. However, it may be more complex than I have read...

I am intrigued by your claim that fat is apparently the primary energy source… Can you provide any scientific literature to support this?


I have read elsewhere that pasteurisation of milk can lead to substantial damage of milk fats, resulting in increased levels of many trans fats.
Also, from my reading, it seems apparent that it is processing of all kinds of food (and particularly damage of fat) that results in the diseases associated with obesity, and not the consumption of saturated fat (coconut oil being a prime example, as it is consumed in vast amounts by many tribes in Australasia). Can you comment on:
A The damage of fat during pasteurisation.
B The role of saturated fats in altherosclerosis, heart disease, etc.

As for the tea, will give it a go when I get home! I still have some coconut oil at home, although I do prefer tetley tea :D



dr. m.c. said...

hi SJW - what does "as a neuroscientist" mean?

If you look at the refs on the site to ketones and ketogenic diets or refs for gluconeogenisis, you'll see that diets that are free of all carb sources will convert fats to the necessary glucose sources for the brain. As for refs, you can look at all the refs in the back of Lyle McDonalds book on the topic (linked on this site), or to the bilble: brooks bioenergetics

As to pasteurisation, let me quote from the 2011 paper cited in the post above - perhaps you missed it

"Effect of Processing

At the time of this trial no published work has indicated
if pasteurization or homogenization might influence
milk fatty acid profiles between farm and retail levels of
the supply chain. The finding of very similar fatty acid
concentrations in milk before and after processing confirms
results of a subsequently published study, which
reported no effect of pasteurization or homogenization
on fatty acid profiles of milk
(Rodríguez-Alcalá et al.,
2009). This suggests that milk quality surveys at both
the farm and retail levels will provide accurate information
for consumers on differences in fatty acid composition
between organic and conventional milk, assuming
the sites sampled are representative of the milk being

as for the role of fats in disease, that's a pretty big topic. there's pointers in the article to the Great Fat Debate that touches on these issues. So does the Perfect Health Diet - you'll multiple sides of the discussions if you go to these sources.

The short answer as far as i can tell is ratios of types of fat are critical, not focusing on a given fat type. So lowering the ratio between n6 and n3; mixing up medium with short chain tri's etc. And if a person doesn't want to think about fats just focus on getting as much color onto the plate as possible.

to paraphrase michael pollen, eat less, mostly plants.

beyond this, pubmed is your friend. If you find some articles you like, post 'em.

hope that helps. thanks for taking the time to write.


Marc said...

Hi mc,

Have you ever done any research on the fatty acid profile of fermented dairy like kefir and yogurt? Most of the stuff I've read cites some amazing health benefits in the form of colonizing (kefir) and transient (yogurt) probiotic bacteria. But I've also heard some uncited heresay about fat oxidation in fermented dairy. If you've got the skinny on this kind of dairy fat, I'm all ears. Another great post, Thanks!


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