There is so much conflicting and confusing information about fats out there!
The media and government sources have led us to believe that most fats are bad for our health. In fact, you need fats in your diet. The issue is more specifically the kind of fats you are consuming. We read theories in the popular press (that are often used to bolster sales of lowfat concoctions and cholesterol-free food) about the link between fats and heart disease. The notion that saturated fats per se cause heart disease as well as cancer is not only facile, it is just plain wrong. But it is true that some fats are bad for us. The important thing is to know the difference between trans fats and saturated fats.
What are Saturated Fats?
Natural saturated fats are straight molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods. The majority come mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products.
- chicken with skin
- lard and cream
What are Trans fats?
Trans fatty acids are a type of fat molecule produced by “partial hydrogenation” and produces an unnatural fat, which – like saturated fat, is solid at room temperature. Because trans fats are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, they were, until recently, used in most processed foods, such as commercial baked goods, crackers, bread,chips, pretzels, snack foods and salad dressings. Many restaurants and fast-food outlets use trans fats to deep-fry foods because oils with trans fats can be used many times in commercial fryers. When they learned how dangerous trans fats can be, many manufacturers reduced the amounts in processed foods, but it is important to read your labels, and more importantly, to seek out whole foods versus processed.
With all the misinformation and confusion, we found the following explanation from The Weston A. Price Foundation, in their “All About Trans Fats” brochure:
Trans Fats vs. Saturated Fats
- Trans fats raise Lp(a) (indicating they cause heart disease), while saturated fats lower Lp(a).
- Trans fats interfere with immune function, while saturated fats enhance immune function.
- Trans fats promote infammation; saturated fats reduce inflammation.
- Trans fats inhibit the body’s use of omega-3 fatty acids and the production of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, while saturated fats enhance the body’s use of omega-3 fatty acids and the production of the long-chain versions.
- Foods containing Trans fats are associated with increased asthma; saturated fats are needed for the proper functioning of the lungs.
- Trans fats contribute to weight gain, while some types of saturated fats (the medium-chain triglycerides) boost metabolism and help with weight loss.
- Trans fats are associated with increased cancer and decreased fertility. Sources of saturated fat, such a butter and meat fats, contain many nutrients that fight against cancer and promote fertility.
Dangers of Trans Fats
CANCER: In many studies, consumption of trans fats is associated with increased rates of cancer; trans fats interfere with enzymes the body uses to protect itself against cancer.
DIABETES: Trans fatty acids interfere with the insulin receptors in the cell membranes, thus triggering Type II diabetes.
HEART DISEASE: Trans fats raise the level of atherogenic lipoprotein-a (Lp(a)) in humans.
IMMUNE FUNCTION: Trans fats interfere with both B and T cell functions, thus reducing immune response.
FERTILITY AND REPRODUCTION: Trans fats interfere with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones; they decrease the levels of testosterone in male animals and increase the level of abnormal sperm.
LACTATION: In animals and humans, consumption of trans fats lower the overall fat content in mother’s milk, thus compromising the nourishment to the infant. In addition, trans fats can cross the mammary gland into mother’s milk and interfere with neurological and visual development of the infant.
DEVELOPMENT AND GROWTH: Trans fats can cross the placenta, creating many problems for the developing fetus, including low birth weight; they also interfere with the formation of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids needed for growth and development, especially development of the brain.
OBESITY: Women who consume trans fatty acids weigh more than women who do not consume trans fats, even though caloric intake is the same.
The best way to ensure you are avoiding transfats is to stay away from all processed foods. And despite the media blurring of the benefts of saturated fats, it’s important to understand that they are not at all similar to trans fats and play an importat role in the body chemistry. A personalized nutrition program, based on Nutrition Response Testing, will likely include a good ratio of fats, including saturated fats.
We are here to help you with your nutrition needs. Please Contact Us with any questions or concerns about the fat in your diet.