Believe me, fat is a good thing!
Fats are nutrient dense foods from which your body built itself. Saturated fat and cholesterol in particular helped your brain develop. Because fats are so important, if you eat a meal that is low in fat, chances are that you will still feel hungry because your body is asking you for a higher level of fat than you have consumed. For this reason, people on low fat diets often report to lose control and ‘binge’ on food at some point. This is the bodies way of communicating that it is not being given what it needs.
Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.
Excerpt from a recent study-Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
These types of fat are usually solid at room temperature. They are chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached to every available bond and this is what gives them their stability. They do not go rancid and their straight uniform form means that they stack together well, like bricks. Their solidity provides our bodies with the structure and stiffness required to build cells; saturated fats have a big role in cell membranes as saturated fatty acids provide the fatty acids needed for certain membrane structures. It is saturated fats that make up at least 50 percent of ones cell membranes. Bone strength is largely to do with calcium, and for calcium to be properly incorporated into ones skeletal structure saturated fats are needed in ones diet. This is why dairy products naturally contain saturated fat, because nature understands that it is needed! Saturated fats strengthen the immune system, they contain the fatty acids: lauric acid, myristic acid and caprylic acid which are naturally anti fungal, anti microbial and antiviral.
Saturated fats and cholesterol are crucial for the brain, this is why breast milk is so high in saturated fat. Over half the fat that is in the brain is saturated. It seems ridiculous that recently saturated fat has been given such a bad reputation, considering that the brains of those great researchers that condemned it were made up from it in the first place.
Saturated Fats help the membranes of our cells work effectively, they also help insulin receptors work which is an important part of diabetes management. Saturated fats have a role in the lungs and breathing, in fat a very important phospholipid called lung surfactant is made with 100% saturated fatty acids. Children whose diets are higher in saturated fats usually have less respiratory problems such as asthma than those that are brought up on trans fats like margarine.
Saturated fats are involved in correct hormone functioning. Studies indicate that in men a decrease in dietary fat content and an increase in the degree of unsaturation of fatty acids reduces the serum concentrations of androstenedione, testosterone and free testosterone.
Saturated fats (and cholesterol) are also involved in kidney function. When your kidneys are functioning properly they maintain a proper blood volume and composition, they filter and help to maintain a good blood pressure. Hypertension is a result of poorly functioning kidneys. The fat that is found in your kidneys is higher in saturated fat than anywhere else indicating that saturated fat is particularly important here. These saturated fatty acids are myristic acid (the 14-carbon saturate) which coconut oil is high in, palmitic acid (the 16-carbon saturate), and stearic acid (the 18-carbon saturate).
In the diet, saturated fats carry the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and are the only vehicle by which these vitamins can get from the food that you eat into your body. In general, animal fats such as butter, lard and tallow contain about 40-60% saturated fat and are solid at room temperature.
It is often misrepresentative to call all animal fats saturates, they are not, they are usually a combination of saturated and unsaturated fats. For example chicken fat is 70 % unsaturated and most animal fats are 50% or more unsaturated. Beef fat or tallow is made up of about 50% saturated fatty acids (25% palmitic acid, 22% stearic acid and others), 40% monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic acid, the main fatty acid in olive oil), and the balance polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic, the ratio depending on the diet of the cattle)
Saturated fats do not cause heart disease, a recent meta analysis has shown this, and slowly medical professionals are beginning to warm to the idea that they were wrong all along. What needs to happen next is for public awareness to grow so that food producers stop stocking the shelves of our stores with low fat products.
Food manufacturers respond to consumer demand. What you can do as a consumer activist is stop buying low fat products! Shop for full fat versions of dairy and always support organic producers when you can
Saturated fats do not go rancid when cooked. They are the best choice for any food cooking that involves heating.
These fatty acids have one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms that are double bonded to one another and therefore they have two less hydrogen atoms which makes them rather less stable than saturated fats. Your body can make monounsaturated fats from saturated fatty acids and uses them in many ways. They have a kink in them and are more liquid at room temperature but are relatively stable. They do not go rancid very easily.
The claims that polyunsaturated fats are healthier than any other are not entirely unopposed. In fact its recently been quite a topic of contention between health professionals. Some experts, notably ones affiliated with the American Heart Association, credit the current intake high of omega-6s as seen in the West with lowering the incidence of cardiovascular disease. Others, which include biochemists, say the relatively high intake of omega-6 is a reason for a host of chronic illnesses, including asthma, various cancers, neurological disorders and cardiovascular disease itself.
Polyunsaturated fats have two or more pairs of double bonds and are much less stable than saturated fats at room temperature, they do not pack together neatly like saturated fats do and can go rancid. The polyunsaturated fats that are in the food that we eat are most commonly the types that have two double bonds. These are known as omega 3. Omega 6 has three double bonds. Your body cannot make this type of fat and therefore you do need to eat it in your food.
In omega 3 fatty acids, the two critical ones are eicosapentaenoic acid, called EPA and docosahexaenoic or DHA. These fats are the building blocks for hormones. Omega 3 fatty acids are foind in fish, walnuts and flaxseeds.
However, an over consumption of polyunsaturated oils has been shown to contribute to a large number of disease conditions. One of the reasons that polyunsaturates may be the cause so many health problems is that they tend to become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture as in cooking and processing.
Rancid oils mean free radicals. Free radicals are single atoms or clusters with an unpaired electron in an outer orbit. These compounds are extremely reactive chemically. Free radical damage to the skin causes wrinkles and premature aging, to the tissues and organs sets the stage for tumors, to the blood vessels initiates the buildup of plaque. All in all, free radicals are not good news. However, it was once thought that saturated fats were evil, and so I am dubious that free radicals are all bad. In fact some studies have shown that free radicals act as signal substances that tell the heart the pace to beat at…..
As usual, it’s a case of everything in moderation. In normal conditions, free radicals act as important signal substances, but very high levels or long-lasting increases can lead to disease,”
–Håkan Westerblad. Mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species contributes to the beta-adrenergic stimulation of mouse cardiomycytes. The Journal of Physiology, 28 February 2011
Gosh, doesn’t that sound familiar……
Problems associated with an excess of polyunsaturates are exacerbated by the fact that most polyunsaturates in commercial vegetable oils are in the form of double unsaturated omega-6 linoleic acid, with very little of vital triple unsaturated omega-3 linolenic acid. Recent research has revealed that too much omega-6 in the diet creates an imbalance that can interfere with production of important prostaglandins (prostaglandins are a group of hormone-like lipid compounds that are derived enzymatically from fatty acids and have important functions in the animal body)
The modern diet of many people is particularly high in omega 6 fatty acids as it is used in cookies and cakes, fast foods and sweets. A diet that is too high in omega 6 fatty acids is associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, sterility, cell proliferation, cancer and weight gain. This is not to say that omega 6 is ‘bad’ (plus my perosnal opinion is that no natural fat is bad as such- nothing is bad when ingested in the quantities that nature intended) it is rather to say that nature has provided us with a specific ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats in foods for a reason. Due to the increased use of omega 6 fats in things like corn oil and vegetable oil, or diets can be well out of whack with what nature intended.
A number of researchers have argued that along with a high level of omega-6 fatty acids the American diet is deficient in the more unsaturated omega-3 linolenic acid. Omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids compete for the same enzymes, so if ones diet is high in omega 6 it means that less omega 3 is going to be converted. Because omega 6 is more inflammatory, if one eats a diet higher in omega 3’s there is less opportunity for the omega 6 to be converted and to cause inflammation in ones tissues. The omega 3 fatty acid is necessary for cell oxidation, for metabolizing important sulphur-containing amino acids and for maintaining proper balance in prostaglandin production. Deficiencies have been associated with asthma, heart disease and learning deficiencies.
The problem is that many commercial vegetable oils contain a lot of the omega 6 and not enough of the omega 3 fatty acids. The same is true of commercial meats, eggs and fish. Its incredible, but commercial eggs can contain an omega 6 to 3 ratio of up to 19: 1 and organic eggs the natural ratio is 1:1
Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Ratnayake, et al, J Nutrition 2000;130:1166
Watkins, B A, et al, “Importance of Vitamin E in Bone Formation and in Chrondrocyte Function” Purdue University, Lafayette, IN, AOCS Proceedings, 1996; Watkins, B A, and M F Seifert, “Food Lipids and Bone Health,” Food Lipids and Health, R E McDonald and D B Min, eds, p 101, Marcel Dekker, Inc, New York, NY, 1996
Kabara, J J, The Pharmacological Effects of Lipids, The American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, IL, 1978, 1-14; Cohen, L A, et al, J Natl Cancer Inst, 1986, 77:43
Fallon, Sally, and Mary G Enig, PhD, “Diet and Heart Disease—Not What You Think,” Consumers’ Research, July 1996
Daniel C Andersson, Jérémy Fauconnier, Takashi Yamada, Alain Lacampagne, Shi-Jin Zhang, Abram Katz & Håkan Westerblad. Mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species contributes to the beta-adrenergic stimulation of mouse cardiomycytes. The Journal of Physiology, 28 February 2011 DOI:10.1113/jphysiol.2010.202838