A Tale of Two Fats Part 2: The Bad Fats

So the last time I was on my fat kick I started discussing good fats and bad fats, now I’m going to get more into foods sources of these fats. 

So I’ll do the not so ideal fats first

1) Tran Fats come from the process of hydrogenation, and come from hydrogenated oils.  The ironic part of this, is years ago the recommendations started coming out to avoid fats such as butter and other saturated fats.  The process of hydrogenation comes from taking polyunsaturated oils, and artificially saturating the carbon molecules of a fatty acid chain with hydrogen- this is done under high heat & pressure (extremely high)- the degree of hydrogenation determines the solidity of the oil (solid or liquid at room temp)- ergo partially hydrogenated oils are semisolid at room temp.  Hydrogenation makes products simple to work with and retards spoilage.  THAT BEING SAID-

During the process of hydrogenation I mentioned above chemically UNSTABLE molecules called trans fatty acids are produced- these trans fats are altered forms of essentail fatty acids.  As I mentioned above- there is some irony to all of this- these trans fats are much more damaging to our health than saturated fats themself. 

Trans fatty acids

Sources of Trans Fats include: baked goods, pastries, biscuits, muffins, cakes, pie crusts, doughnuts, fried foods, french fries, fried/breaded meats, snack foods such as popcorn, and crackers, traditional stick margarine, and vegetable shortening.

Trans fats are nutritionally inert- meaning they do nothing for us nutritionally- there are no benefits, but really only risks as trans fats do not function normally in the body such as saturated/poly- & monounsaturated fats do. 

Sources of Trans Fats: Sources of Trans Fats include: baked goods, pastries, biscuits, muffins, cakes, pie crusts, doughnuts, fried foods, french fries, fried/breaded meats, snack foods such as popcorn, and crackers, traditional stick margarine, and vegetable shortening. 

Trans fats have been associated with serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as promoting a significant level of inflammation. 

Bottom line with Trans Fats- they are nutritionally unnecessary- we don’t need them in our bodies, and excess amounts only put us at risk for problems.  They will elevate LDL, and suppress HDL. 

Saturated Fats:

Saturated fats tend to have a worse reputation for health purposes than do Trans Fats, even though in my humble opinion trans fats are clearly less ideal.  I say this because even though saturated fats come with significant calories, and we do not need a lot of them, our body knows what to do with saturated fats. 

What makes a saturated fat a saturated fat is one in which all carbon atoms are bonded with hydrogen.  The longer the chain the more detrimental to are health and cardiovascular system. 

Sources of saturated fats are primarily animal products such as organ meats, beef, pork, lamb, dairy products (more fat), cream, & cheese, palm, palm kernel, & coconut oils

The effect that saturated fats have on our health is excessive intake will raise “bad cholesterol” or LDL, and suppress HDL. 

For Trans & Saturated fats I have used the term “excessive intake”.  What I mean by this is consuming greater than the recommended amounts on a daily basis. 

The rec for Trans Fat is < 1% of total daily calories, and saturated is < 7% of total daily calories.  That means if you happen to consum 2000 calories you 140 calories or less (15 grams) can be from saturated fat, and 20 calories (2 grams) can be from trans fat.  2 grams is not a lot, therefore keeping this to a minimum is ideal. 

Lastly I want to discuss Triglycerides.  These tend to confuse people, especially many of my patients.  Because they are are affected by fat, but are also affected by foods that do not necessarily contain fat. 

Triglycerides are created when 3 fatty acid chains attach to a glycerol molecule- but that’s just chemistry 🙂 Much like the saturated fats the detriment comes in when there is a high degree of saturation meaning there is a long chain and each carbon is hydrogenated (some chains are as long as 18- that is a very high level of saturation). 

So triglycerides come from 1) fats from foods- such as what I have discussed above AND 2) refined sugars/simple carbohydrates

Simple CarbsTriglyceride foods

Excess levels of Triglycerides in the blood/plasma can lead to or be noted as “Hypertriglyceridemia”- this can lead to heart disease, it is typically a factor in Metabolic Syndrome (which I will cover at a later date), high levels of triglycerides are typically commonplace in individuals with pancreatitis, and Diabetes.  Another item that is not pictured above that will elevate triglycerides is alcohol. 

I know I'm a serious nerd for adding this but I like descriptive pictures like this.  If you're confused that organ is supposed to be the liver

I know I’m a serious nerd for adding this but I like descriptive pictures like this. If you’re confused that organ is supposed to be the liver

What to do with this information? If you have a family history for high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, Diabetes, or high blood pressure, or have been diagnosed with any of these, you should really have your lipid levels checked.  Many times this is done as part of an annual physical, but it’s always best to be an advocate for you own health.  So if you aren’t sure if it will get done- ASK, and KNOW YOUR NUMBERS.  Ask for a copy of your labs- I give them to my patients all of the time.  If your total cholesterol, LDL, and/or Triglycerides re-read this and try to cut down on the items I listed above, and/or make healthier substitutions. 

The last installment of this will cover the heart healthier fats, and their affect on cholesterol & heart health. 

Resources:

American Heart Association

Breaking the Metabolic Code by James B. LaValle, R.Ph, CCN, ND

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