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Frank W. Nelte

March 2016


This article is about eating or not eating fat. It is not about being or not being fat. Being or not being fat is a different subject, which is greatly misunderstood, but which is not the subject of this article.

[COMMENT: I will just say that in most cases being fat is not due to either overeating or to under-exercising, which are the most commonly assumed causes for people getting fat. It is in fact possible to get fat on a semi-starvation diet, as can be seen in some very poor societies in some Third World countries ... obese mothers with malnourished small children. Those obese mothers themselves are in fact also malnourished in spite of being fat. It has been shown that some people can actually gain weight on a 1,000 calories a day diet consisting of certain foods, while others can lose weight on a 2,600 calories a day diet that is composed of completely different foods. The key is what they eat, and not how many calories they have eaten. Not all calories are equal.

Neither is being fat the result of eating dietary fat. Furthermore, even some marathon runners put on fat in their later years while they are still actively running. And I personally know one ultra-marathon runner who is a very highly qualified medical doctor, a professor at a university, and who has become a type 2 diabetic after following a high carbohydrate and low fat diet for over two decades.

The best and clearest explanation for why we get fat that I have seen is presented in a book by Gary Taubes, appropriately entitled "WHY WE GET FAT". If you are interested, the logic presented in that book is very compelling and highly likely to change your understanding of what is in most cases the real cause for people becoming fat, and how straight-forward it is in such cases to restore our normal weight.

Also, a vast number of videos on YouTube by highly qualified people like Gary Taubes, Tim Noakes, Eric Westman, Jeff Volek, David Perlmutter, Richard Bernstein, Pierre Dukan, Jonny Bowden, Leo Galland, Ron Rosedale, Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, David Ludwig, Stephen Phinney, Nina Teicholz, etc. freely and lucidly explain the same basic information in great detail, information that has been repeatedly confirmed in numerous field studies. I don’t mean to imply that all of the above experts agree on every point with all the others in this list, but they all have serious thoughts to contribute on this subject. And don’t let the fact that they all believe in evolution put you off the information they can provide.

In addition, anyone who is seriously seeking to lose some weight might even consider doing a Google search on "brown fat" and on "cold thermogenesis". But becoming fat or losing weight are not the subjects of this article.]

I am addressing this subject of fat in the diet because of two current conflicting ideas: On the one hand, we have been told for well over three decades, in fact since the 1977 McGovern Report ("Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs"), that we should increase consumption of "complex carbohydrates" and "naturally occurring sugars", and to reduce or limit consumption of fat; and that cholesterol in our diet will cause a clogging of our arteries, cause heart disease and a number of other health issues. During those same three decades obesity rates here in the U.S. have risen sharply.

On the other hand, there are today in excess of fifty different variations of "low carbohydrate" diets, many of which encourage us to consume far more dietary fats than was previously recommended, including generous quantities of foods with a high cholesterol content and a high saturated fat content.

So the question for us is: Is eating fat bad for our health or is it good for our health? Should we eat fat or should we avoid it? Does eating dietary cholesterol pose a health risk or is it in fact very healthy to eat cholesterol-rich foods like eggs and cream and butter and fat cheese, foods that are actively promoted by a number of these low carbohydrate diets? Should we eat butter or should we avoid it and eat margarine instead? Should we eat three-egg omelettes or should we only eat egg-white omelettes?

What does the Bible tell us about eating fat?



In the Book of Leviticus we find God’s instructions for both the sacrificial system God was instituting for the nation of Israel, and also God’s laws regarding the things we human beings may eat. In fact, the discussion of the sacrificial system in chapters 1-7 leads into a discussion of the clean animals that are fit for human consumption in chapter 11.

So let’s start by looking at some statements regarding fat in the discussion of the sacrifices.

With the burnt offering the whole animal was burned in sacrifice. We should note that in this context the fat is always specifically mentioned, that it was to be burned with every other part.

And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat (Hebrew "peder"), in order upon the wood that [is] on the fire which [is] upon the altar: (Leviticus 1:8)

The Hebrew word "peder" here translated as "fat" is derived from a root word that means "greasy", and it refers to the solid, hard fat in the animal, located largely around the kidneys and loins. This fat is also known as suet and it has been used in the past to make soap. This fat was to be burned.

The word "peder" is only used three times in the whole Old Testament, only in the Book of Leviticus, and in both other places (Leviticus 1:12 and Leviticus 8:20) it was also to be burned with the rest of the sacrifice. The fact that all three uses of this word "peder" occur in the instructions for the sacrifices, and that the word "peder" is never used again tells us that this word refers to a very specific form of fat, the suet, which was never to be eaten by the people.

So here is the point: In discussing the burnt offering God made a point of specifically identifying the suet, the solid hard fat on the animals. God clearly wanted to make certain that this fat was always burned together with the rest of the sacrificial animal.

Let’s move on to the main Old Testament Hebrew word for "fat", which is "cheleb". It is used 92 times in 69 different verses in the KJV, and it is almost always translated as "fat", very appropriately so.

But here is something to take note of!

The Hebrew word for "fat" is "cheleb". And the Hebrew word for "milk" is "chalab". Both these Hebrew words are derived from the same unused root word that means "to be fat".

Most of you know that the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament did not contain vowels, vowel points only being added to the text many centuries after the time of Christ’s ministry. Readers of the unpointed Hebrew text would always provide the needed vowels themselves.

Now as far as the Hebrew words for "fat" and for "milk" are concerned, they are in fact identical. Transliterated into our alphabet, the unpointed Hebrew word for "fat" reads "chlb", and the Hebrew word for "milk" also reads "chlb". It was up to the reader to provide the vowels to make either the word "cheleb" or the word "chalab".

In the unpointed Hebrew text the words for "fat" and for "milk" are identical.

It is always the context in which the word is used that tells us whether we should read "fat" or whether we should read "milk". It is when the context is somewhat unclear that then some people might read "fat" for the word that other people will read as "milk".

Let’s consider an example: Job 21:24

His breasts (Hebrew "atin") are full of milk (Hebrew "chlb"), and his bones are moistened with marrow. (Job 21:24, KJV)

The Hebrew word "atin", here translated as "breasts", is used nowhere else in the Old Testament. It is not the Hebrew word that means "breast" or "chest". In fact, The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) gives the meaning of the word "atin" as "bucket, pail". In Job 21:24 Job was comparing the frame of mind of different people at the time of death. So Job said "one dies in his full strength" (verse 23), and then Job said "another dies in the bitterness of his soul" (verse 25). Job was speaking about two men. And Job was most assuredly NOT saying "his breasts are full of milk"! That translation as "breasts" is absurd! The context proves this!

Now the reason why TWOT defines the word "atin" as "bucket" or "pail" is based on reading the (transliterated) Hebrew word "chlb" in this verse as "chalab" (i.e. "milk"). If TWOT would have read "chlb" in Job 21:24 as "cheleb" (i.e. "fat"), then they would very likely also have provided a different meaning for "atin", to be compatible with "fat".

Here are a number of different translations for Job 21:24.

His pails are full of milk, And the marrow of his bones is moistened. (Job 21:24 ASV)

His sides are full of fat, and the marrow of his bones is moistened; (Job 21:24, 1890 Darby Translation)

His thighs are full of fat, and his bones are moistened with marrow. (Job 21:24, The 2011 King James Bible)

His sides are full of fat, And his bones moist with marrow. (Job 21:24, 1869 Noyes Translation)

His breasts have been full of milk, And marrow his bones doth moisten. (Job 21:24, Young’s Literal Translation)

Here is the point with these different translations: IF they accept a meaning like "breasts" or "pails" for the word "atin", THEN they have chosen to read "chlb" as "chalab", milk. But IF they have accepted a meaning like "thighs" or "sides" for the word "atin", THEN they have chosen to read "chlb" as "cheleb", fat. In some cases they may in fact first have decided to read "chlb" as either "milk" or as "fat", and then they translated "atin" in a way that is compatible with "milk" or with "fat".

It makes no difference whatsoever to us whether it should read "breasts" or "pails" or "thighs" or "sides" for the Hebrew word "atin". But there is one clear lesson for us here, and that is this:

Different translations for Job 21:24 (and the same is true for Ezekiel 34:3) prove very clearly that the one Hebrew word "chlb" means both fat and milk! This should be clear even to people who don’t understand Hebrew.

Because this Hebrew word "chlb" has both these meanings, as long as no vowels have been added, therefore some translators have opted to provide the vowels for "cheleb" and translate it as "fat", while other translators have opted to provide the vowels for "chalab" and translate it as "milk".

What this means is that in every one of the 136 places in the Old Testament where "chlb" is used it could theoretically mean either "fat" or "milk". In practice, in almost all places the context makes abundantly clear that the intended meaning is either "fat" or "milk". Thus the translators of the KJV chose to read "chlb" as "cheleb" 92 times, and to read "chlb" as "chalab" 44 times. It is only seldom ambiguous (as for example in Job 21:24 and also in Ezekiel 34:3, which Scripture we need not look at).

The importance for us is as follows:

The Hebrew words for "milk" and "fat" come from the same unused root word, which means "to be fat". Milk is obviously also "fat", even as fat is fat.

But while milk is good for human consumption, fat is something God instructs us not to eat. We’ll look at the relevant Scriptures later. So looking at the unpointed Hebrew text, on the one hand God instructs us not to eat "chlb", and on the other hand God has also provided "chlb" as a major food source for us human beings.

The lesson for us is this:

In a general sense God has provided fat for us to eat and to enjoy and to nourish us in a very healthy way! That is represented by the word "chlb" meaning "milk" (Hebrew "chalab"). But there is a specific form of fat that God tells us not to eat, the solid fat on an animal. That is represented by the word "chlb" meaning "fat" (Hebrew "cheleb").

This is somewhat of a parallel to God’s original instructions to Adam regarding: of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the perception of good and evil, you shall not eat of it (see Genesis 2:16-17).

The parallel is: There were very many trees with fruits that are good for us to eat. But there was one tree where the fruit was forbidden. Likewise, there are many forms of fat that are very good for us and which we may freely eat and which carry nutritional benefits for us; but there are also some forms of fat that we are not to eat. Clearly, not all fats are equal before God.

Let’s continue with the sacrifices listed in the Book of Leviticus.

In Leviticus chapter 3 we find a discussion of the peace offering. In this context the fat that surrounds the two kidneys is specifically identified, in addition to "the fat that covers the inwards".

And he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire unto the LORD; the fat thereof, [and] the whole rump, it shall he take off hard by the backbone; and the fat that covers the inwards, and all the fat that [is] upon the inwards, And the two kidneys, and the fat that [is] upon them, which [is] by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away. (Leviticus 3:9-10)

[Comment: The Hebrew word "alyah", which in Leviticus 3:9 is translated as "rump" in the expression "the whole rump", refers to "the fat tail" of a breed of sheep found in the Middle East. It is not a reference to the cut of meat we today know as "rump" and as "rump steak". Rump steak is perfectly good for eating.]

The word "fat" in these verses is always "cheleb". It refers to the solid fat (as opposed to liquid fat found in milk, etc.) that could readily be cut out of the slaughtered animal carcase. The fat was to be taken away to be burned. It was not for eating.

Notice the great focus on fat in these instructions. The instructions are aimed at identifying all the major areas in the animal where concentrations of fat could be readily found in pasture-fed animals. All this fat was to be taken away.

Notice verse 17.

[It shall be] a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that you eat neither fat nor blood. (Leviticus 3:17)

The same approach of carefully identifying all the solid fat is also evident with the sin offering discussed in Leviticus 4. Again all the fat is repeatedly identified for burning. As verse 19 states in summary form:

And he shall take all his fat from him, and burn [it] upon the altar. (Leviticus 4:19)

At the end of the discussion of all the different sacrifices God gave the following clear instructions, an elaboration of the instructions already stated in Leviticus 3:17.

And the LORD spoke unto Moses saying ... You shall eat no manner of fat, of ox, or of sheep, or of goat. And the fat of the beast that dies of itself, and the fat of that which is torn with beasts, may be used in any other use: but you shall in no wise eat of it. For whosoever eats the fat of the beast, of which men offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, even the soul that eats [it] shall be cut off from his people. (Leviticus 7:22-25)

These instructions make clear that we are not to eat any of the solid fat of any clean animal. The main areas where the fat is concentrated have been repeatedly identified throughout the discussion of the various sacrifices.

Those instructions were given by God long before our modern practice of unnaturally feeding cattle with grain was invented. Today in many cases cattle are raised on a very high calorie grain diet (mostly corn), to make the cattle put on large amounts of fat in areas of their bodies where pasture-fed animals only seldom form fat deposits, i.e. attached to many muscle tissues. In many cases today even muscle tissue itself (i.e. red meat) contains streaks of fat, because those cattle are fed grain and they hardly ever walk more than just a few steps.

I believe that the principle of Leviticus 7:23 ("eat no manner of fat, of ox, or of sheep, or of goat") means that we are not to eat any of the visible fat of clean animals. When God gave those instructions in the days of Moses, God identified all the areas on the animal where one would normally expect to find solid fat deposits on pasture-fed cattle. In those circumstances there would have been very little fat attached to most muscle tissue.

That is also the way it still would have been with the millions of cattle that were driven in cattle drives from Texas to the railheads in Kansas between 1866 and 1886, for shipments to stockyards in Chicago and in cities further east. Those cattle had walked for hundreds of miles (the Chisholm Trail was about 500 miles long), and their diet was pasture. And those cattle had no more fat attached to their muscle tissues than cattle had in biblical times.

But that has all changed. Fat cattle fetch higher prices than cattle that don’t carry as much fat. Therefore people have resorted to feeding cattle with corn, to make them fat. As a result, cattle today have substantial fat deposits on muscle tissues, places where in the days of Moses cattle simply didn’t carry any significant amounts of fat.

My point is this: While God’s instructions in Leviticus don’t specifically identify all the large borders of fat that surround virtually all the steaks we can buy from the supermarkets today, those fatty deposits on our steaks are certainly included in God’s instructions to not eat any manner of visible fat on our meat.

[COMMENT: People feed their cattle grain because grain is readily converted into fat in the cow’s body, even as grain is easily turned into fat in our bodies. That’s what grain does when it is digested ... it is readily available either for burning for energy, or otherwise for building fat stores.]

However, it is a fact that meat also contains fat that is not visible; i.e. there is some fat even in totally lean red meat. We don’t see that fat, but it is there together with the protein of the meat. It is quite acceptable to eat any fat that is not visible on the meat. So when we eat lean red meat, we are in fact also eating a certain amount of fat from the animal, which fat is not seen. And that is quite acceptable. That is not something God intended to restrict.

So here is the point:

When God says to us "you shall eat no manner of fat", then God was specifically referring to the solid fat that is readily visible on the animal carcase, and not to any hidden fat within the meat itself. It is the solid fat, whether firm or jiggly, that God instructs us not to eat. It is fat that attaches itself to other tissues and organs in the animal’s body.

I mention this because some of the otherwise fairly good diets being promoted today somewhat tongue-in-cheek encourage people to "eat the fat and throw away the meat", to highlight their point of getting a large percentage of their daily calories from fat. That approach of eating the visible fat on the meat is clearly contrary to the biblical instructions we have just examined, and it is an example of Romans 8:7 in action, of the carnal mind going contrary to God’s will and intentions.

Now let’s look at something God provided for Israel.



And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk (Hebrew "chlb") and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. (Exodus 3:8)

Time and again God said that He would give Israel a land "flowing with milk and honey" (see also Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5; Exodus 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27; Numbers 14:8; Deuteronomy 6:3; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 26:9,15; Deuteronomy 27:3; Deuteronomy 31:20; Joshua 5:6; etc.).

Milk is something that is high in fat content. Whatever else we may be able to conclude from God’s promise to give His people a land flowing with milk and honey, it should be absolutely clear, beyond any shadow of doubt, that God intended Israel to drink the milk and to eat the milk products! And the word "milk" comes from a root word that means "to be fat"!

In other words, God was going to provide an abundance of dietary fat for His people! That is what God’s promise implies.

The three basic macro-nutrients are fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Proteins and carbohydrates provide about four calories of energy per gram. Fats provide about nine calories of energy per gram, more than twice as much energy as either proteins or carbohydrates. So when God promised Israel a land flowing with "chlb" and honey, then God was promising Israel a land overflowing with the highest form of nutritional energy, fats, which in this context happen to be contained in milk.

Further, an abundance of milk automatically implies an abundance of cattle and sheep and goats to produce that abundance of milk. "A land flowing with milk ..." implies that the Israelites would also be eating a fair amount of beef and mutton and goat meat. So they would also be eating the invisible fats contained in the meat of these animals, in addition to eating the dairy products.

There really is no way to conclude that God would have wanted the people of Israel to follow "a low-fat diet". Rather, God was promising His people a high-fat diet ... that’s what "flowing with milk and honey" refers to.

Keep in mind that the unpointed Hebrew word "chlb" means both fat and milk. And while God was telling Israel that the land would provide an abundance of "milk", God clearly also wanted Israel to know that they would also have access to an abundance of dietary fat, because "milk" implies "fat".

Butter is a concentrated form of milk fat. And butter is specifically mentioned as something that Abraham offered to Jesus Christ and the two angels in Genesis 18:8. Implied is that in Abraham’s household butter was readily available. Other passages also refer to butter. So the Bible endorses and encourages the consumption of butter, which happens to be a food high in cholesterol.

Now we today associate butter with something we spread on our bread, to make a sandwich. And we use butter in our cooking and baking to add a rich taste and flavor to our foods. Or we will melt some butter on hot foods (popcorn, pasta, vegetables, etc.) for the same purpose, making those particular foods more appealing to our taste buds.

But as far as butter in its semi-solid form is concerned, we don’t usually eat butter other than as something to spread on our bread. And so at any meal where no bread is being served (and no hot corn-on-the-cob, etc.) we also don’t usually expect to see butter on the table.

That is basically our relationship with butter in our western culture today. But that is not the way butter was used in Old Testament times.

For a start, in biblical times bread was not eaten by the slice. People ate bread by breaking off chunks from a loaf of bread. The pieces of bread people ate were totally irregular in shape. And people did not spread anything on the bread which they ate ... no butter, no jam or jelly, no marmalade, no slab of cheese, etc.

Simply stated, people in Israel did not put butter to the same use to which we today put butter ... to spread on a neatly cut slice of bread. So the question is:

When you hear about butter being served at a meal in Old Testament times, exactly how did people use that butter during the course of their meal? If they didn’t spread a thin film of butter on a piece of bread, then how did they eat that butter?

And why is butter specifically mentioned as something that both Jesus Christ and people in general would eat? Notice what we are told in Isaiah 7:

Butter and honey shall he eat, when he shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. (Isaiah 7:15)

And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk [that] they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land. (Isaiah 7:22)

These verses remind us somewhat of "a land flowing with milk and honey".

Butter was served to provide a major source of energy. People would have eaten scoops of butter in the same way they ate scoops of any other food item that was available. Butter is mentioned as a main constituent of the diet, not as something that is sparingly spread on a smoothly cut piece of bread. Butter is pictured as being freely and generously available.

That’s a high-fat and high-cholesterol diet.

Now while we find in the Bible a caution regarding the over-consumption of honey lest we eat too much of it and vomit it up (see Proverbs 25:16),

the Bible nowhere says anything about eating too many cholesterol-rich foods (butter, milk, cream, eggs, cheese, meat, etc.), lest they cause us to have clogged arteries and give us heart disease. I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since "clogged arteries" are not something the ancient Israelites would have been familiar with. The point is: God didn’t caution the Israelites about eating too much dietary fat; God only instructed the Israelites not to eat a certain type of fat.

I take God’s repeated references to giving Israel a land flowing with milk and honey, and the references to generous supplies of butter as an indication that God intended us human beings to make generous use of dietary fats, including saturated fats found in milk. God designed those particular fats to be very beneficial for our health and well-being. Specifically, from God’s references I believe that God intends us to freely eat butter and not margarine.

It is also interesting to look at the use of olive oil (i.e. fat) as a major food item in the Old Testament. Olive oil was used in baking, cooking and frying. It was also generously poured over boiled vegetables and salads, and added to stews. The Old Testament assumes that people would regularly consume olives and olive oil in significant amounts. Recipes for making bread included greater amounts of oil than we would tend to use today in baking our breads. The point is this: the Bible implies a diet high in olive oil (i.e. fat) in addition to the land "flowing with milk and honey". You could not possibly appeal to the Bible to promote "a low-fat diet". A low-fat diet is simply at odds with a discussion of God’s blessings for obedience.

For the record:

Not a single medical study has ever demonstrated that saturated fats and dietary cholesterol (i.e. the things that are abundantly available in a land "flowing with milk and honey") cause any kinds of health problems. For decades we were told that these things are supposedly bad for our health, but this has never been proved, not even once.

We were in fact lied to by the proponents of the low-fat high-carbohydrate diets, and the evidence for these lies is presented in a number of the YouTube videos I referred to at the start. Those videos on YouTube also conclusively demonstrate the flaws in the "saturated fats and dietary cholesterol are bad for you" teaching that was almost universally accepted 30 and more years ago.



We understand that the natural human mind is hostile towards God’s laws and God’s ways (see Romans 8:7). This naturally hostile attitude extends to every facet of our human existence, and it also includes a hostility towards God’s dietary instructions.

As far as dietary fat is concerned: God gave us human beings the fat in milk to produce cream and butter and various cheeses. Butter is, amongst other things, a perfect spread to make sandwiches. But the carnal mind doesn’t like to do things God’s way. So the carnal mind finds fault with butter, claiming that it is bad for our health. And so the carnal mind then invents counterfeit butter, which we call margarine; bad for our health, but a real boon for the food products manufacturing industry.

Fats can be divided into two groups: saturated fats which are mostly solid at room temperature, and unsaturated fats which are liquid at room temperature. Saturated fats are those that are "saturated with hydrogen molecules", and unsaturated fats are those that have one or more empty "parking spaces" for hydrogen molecules. This tells us that organic chemists can fiddle much more easily with unsaturated fats, precisely because those molecules can be pressured to accept one or more hydrogen molecules into those empty "parking spaces", which is what happens when a fat becomes known as a hydrogenated fat. That’s what happens when margarine is produced from a liquid plant oil.

[By the way: the industrial process by which margarine is produced is really gross, enough to put anyone who sees it off eating margarine for the rest of his life. The same is true for the production of sugar: at the Feast in 1975 we toured a sugar cane refinery with the industrial equipment needed to extract the sugar from the cane and then eventually turn it into the white granules you buy at the store ... the whole process was extremely gross and firmly put me off eating sugar. You might try to check out those two production processes for yourself.]

Another term for artificial fats produced by adding hydrogen to a liquid vegetable oil is trans fats, or trans fatty acids. So when you read a food label then sometimes it may say "trans fat", and sometimes it may say "partially hydrogenated oil (or fat)"; but they are basically the same thing. While back in the 1980's these trans fats were believed to be much more healthy than saturated fats like butter, it is now almost universally recognized that trans fats do in fact pose serious health risks, and a process has been set in motion to remove all trans fats from manufactured food products over the space of the next several years.

And so many health authorities have come to recognize that man-made counterfeit butter is in fact detrimental to our health. Now I don’t want to get involved in any kind of argument regarding all these different classifications for fats. My point is very simple:

When God promised Israel a land flowing with milk and honey, and a land that would produce an abundance of olive oil, then God was telling us that the abundant fats in dairy produce and in eggs and in meat (the invisible fat) and in olives are intended by God to represent a major food source for us human beings. Cholesterol in the diet has nothing to do with cholesterol in the blood stream. The one restriction God imposed was that we don’t eat the solid fat of animals.

That is what the Bible tells us about eating fat. How much or how little fat you should have in your diet is up to you to figure out for yourself. But don’t for one moment assume that God designed human life in such a way that the achievement of optimum health requires a low-fat diet. If anything, the Bible presents the right kinds of dietary fats as a blessing.

Frank W Nelte