Fats are not the most exciting things in the world to write about. So we will content ourselves to say as little as possible.
But there are a few things about fat that we do need to know when it comes to heart health. It is important for us to know a little about the saturation levels of fats. So here is a…
Let’s start with the bad guys…
This type is normally solid or almost solid at room temperature. Chemically speaking they are called saturated because the molecule string contains as many hydrogen atoms as is possible.
These guys have been implicated in the increase of LDL cholesterol, which leads to atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels (especially LDL levels) more than dietary cholesterol itself.
Saturated fats are also blamed for increasing the risk of cancer of many types and obesity which itself can raise the risk of chronic medical problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Saturated fat is the most potent determinant of blood cholesterol levels.
Polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature. They are found in vegetable oils such as…
They are also present in fish and fish oils, which help to decrease triglyceride levles and LDL cholesterol levels (the bad stuff). But some studies show that they can also lower HDL cholesterol levels (the good stuff).
Generally polyunsaturated fats are much healthier than their saturated counterparts. However, they tend to have a shorter shelf-life and can turn rancid rather quickly by interacting with oxygen. Also, foods made with them can be softer than desired.
The solution to these problems is hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is a chemical process used to make oils more stable at room temperature. The process of hydrogenation changes the chemical structure of unsaturated fats by adding hydrogen atoms to make them more saturated.
Hydrogenation is what turns liquid oil into stick margarine or shortening. The more hydrogenation, the more solid and the more saturated with hydrogen the oil becomes. This allows manufacturers of foods and food supplements to use a little hydrogenated fat and have products that will last longer.
The problem is that a byproduct of this process is the formation of trans-fatty acid. Trans-fats have received a lot of attention lately. Like saturated fats, they tend to increase LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol.
Therefore, while many manufacturers begin with a healthier product, the hydrogenation process results in a product that may be more undesirable than the saturated fats they were trying to avoid. A diet high in trans-fats is not a good idea, especially for someone at risk for heart disease.
For information on trans-fats and the hydrogenation process please use the links below:
The problem with trans-fats
How we make trans-fats, the hydrogenation process.
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Are there health issues – in addition to your heart health – that concern you? Like…
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Did you know that these health problems – as well as more serious chronic diseases – can be the result of …
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Monounsaturated fats remain liquid at low temperatures. They are found in vegetable oils such as…
They tend to lower total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Also they do not lower HDL cholesterol. Research has shown that substituting monounsaturated fats for either of the other types reduces blood cholesterol levels without affecting HDL levels.
This page is just a primer on fats types. There is abundant discussion on certain polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary for optimal heart health.
If you hope to have the best heart health possible it is critical that you get enough omega-3 while reducing the amounts of more harmful fats in your diet.
For more information on omega-3 and other heart healthy essential fatty acids please return to the main 'Fish Oils' page and follow the links there.
Return to Fish Oils main page from the Fats page.
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