Fat, Fats and fatty acids can make you ...FAT.
Dangerous to health but also heart healthy?

An introduction to the macronutrient, Fat.

 

 

By STEFAN Angheli
editor in chief


Fat and Fats

Fat is the most dense caloric food because it yields nine calories per gram. This is more than twice the calories in a gram of carbohydrates and protein. So the more fat you have in your diet, the more likely you are to take in more calories than you should and the more fat you'll deposit.

A calorie derived from fat is stored as fat more easily than from protein or carbohydrate (1,2). A rather disadvantageous property of fat is that it is quickly and easily absorbed by the body and most goes directly to your waistline. This is because the conversion of dietary fat to body fat is easy and costs little energy. Only about 3 per cent of the fat calories are expended during the conversion. And once a fat cell is born it cannot be eliminated.

Fortunately, it can be shrunk to almost nothing. That's why it is important to take control of your body fat early by avoiding fatty products and exercising and not allow any more fat cells to develop. Nevertheless, today is better than tomorrow to take action, ...It is still not too late. Disadvantageous in today's world, but our ancestors when food was scarce, relied on fat sores to survive. In today's affluent society, the average adult man carries enough fat to ride a bike from Melbourne to Cairns, a distance of 2,000 miles. An 80 kg male with around 15% bodyfat, (which is not that high), has enough fat to run 150 miles, with only 3% of that acting as insulation. Your body's limiting energy source is always sugar in the form of glycogen or stored carbohydrate, never fat.

It has been proven that people who eat fat, put on fat more easily compared to others eating carbohydrates and proteins even though the total caloric intake is the same (3,4). Also your body can only burn fat in the presence of oxygen. It can take a while before fats can be utilised as energy because the glucose in your blood and glycogen in your muscles are put to use first. Remember, carbohydrate is the preferred fuel and glucose and glycogen are derived from it.

However, don't get discouraged, I'm not saying fat is hard to burn. How efficiently your body burn fat has a lot to do with your level of conditioning. The more aerobically conditioned you are the more fat you are able to burn (5). Aerobic exercise helps burn fat simply because it demands oxygen, and remember fat only burns in its presence. In addition, it increases the development of capillaries to muscles and myoglobin needed to transport oxygen to them. So with improved blood flow and better oxygen carrying ability, your body becomes more efficient at burning fat. Secondly, exercise stimulates enzyme activity known as hormone sensitive lipase, which promotes the breakdown of fat you use.

There are different types of fats; saturated fats, unsaturated and polyunsaturated. Saturated fats, as it's name implies have all the carbon atoms saturated with hydrogen atoms and therefore won't hold any more hydrogen. Unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated, don't have all their bonds saturated and therefore are able to link up with other substances in the body, thereby making them more biologically active. This biological activity makes these fats healthier and some, such as olive oil, are even heart healthy. Conversely, saturated fats are virtually inert and their only biological role is to be burned for energy. But since people have more fat on them, especially in the Western world, than they'll ever use, there is little need for saturated fat.

Another type of fat is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil found in margarine and shortening. These fats were once unsaturated and in liquid form but they have been hydrogenated (by adding a hydrogen atoms) so that they become solid at room temperature.

Saturated fats are difficult to avoid, but every conscious effort must be made to eliminate them from your diet or at least minimize their intake. Perhaps the major reason why saturated fat should be avoided is because our liver manufactures blood cholesterol from saturated fat. So the more you eat the more it makes. Excessive blood cholesterol is very dangerous, yet easy to achieve. It blocks off arteries causing all sorts of trouble.

Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and come from animal sources. Sources of high saturated fat content are red meat fat and butter fat. Butter fat is found in milk, cheeses, ice cream and other products made from milk. Other sources are tropical oils such as coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil and the cocoa fat found in chocolate.

Dairy sources are high in fat. For example a 250 ml glass of regular milk contains 87 % water (0 calories), 3.8 % fat (69 calories) and 8% carbohydrates (64 calories). That makes it more than 50 % fat. So always choose low fat or nonfat milk and dairy products. Simply switching from full fat to low fat will make an immense difference to your fat loss goals and your health.

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are usually liquids at room temperature, and come from sources such as nuts, seeds and vegetables. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil. These are the fats that should be mostly used. Monounsaturated fats tend to have a protective effect on blood cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL levels (good cholesterol).

Fat consumption should never be cut out entirely, even though that is very hard to do in our society. Two fats are considered essential because the body cannot manufacture them -linoleic acid and linolenic acid. The best vegetable sources of these essential fats are flax or linseed oil. These are needed for healthy cell membranes, nerves and arteries. They keep your skin smooth and lubricated, protect your joints and assist in the breakdown of cholesterol. They also help absorb the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K. These essential fats are found in vegetables such as corn, soybean, safflower, walnut oils, also in nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables. Cold water fish are also high in these essential fats.

Major sources of saturated (bad) fats are found in meats and whole milk dairy products. In 1991, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Nutrition, a Washington lobby group representing 3000 physicians, asked the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) -the government authority on healthy eating, to abandon the four food groups. They appealed to reclassify meats and dairy products as "optional foods". Dr. T Collin Campbell, Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, presented evidence which showed that excess intakes of meat and dairy products in America are strongly linked with high rates of cancer, heart disease, obesity and osteoporosis.

Some fat fighting tips are to avoid whenever possible meats and dairy products. Cut all visible fat off meat and peal away all skin. Chicken, turkey and fish are the leaner meat sources. Dairy products are important so choose low fat milk or non-fat milk. Avoid eating egg yolk as they are high in cholesterol. And lastly avoid all processed foods such as snack foods like chips, crackers, biscuits. Even though they look dry they are so high in fat that most companies don't dare put the contents on the label for fear of losing customers. For those that do, please read the label, you'll be surprised to know that potato chips and other snacks are around 50% fat and provide little or no fiber, which is extremely important. Amongst the best snack choices are rice cakes and pretzels.

Most of the fat on you is dead weight that inhibits performance, making you feel exhausted not to mention the ensuing health complications. Imagine carrying around a 5kg back pack with you all day. Even though 5 kg is substantial, most people can afford to lose way more than 5 kg. So invest a little time now, get to your ideal weight and literally feel the energy levels increase. Believe me, everyone I've helped always say ..."Its worth the investment".

 

Fat Overview

Fat is the most dense caloric food because it yields nine calories per gram. This is more than twice the calories in a gram of carbohydrates and protein.

A calorie derived from fat is stored as fat more easily than from protein or carbohydrate

Fat Overview Con'd

...the conversion of dietary fat to body fat is easy and costs little energy. Only about 3 per cent of the fat calories are expended during the conversion.

...people who eat fat, put on fat more easily compared to others eating carbohydrates and proteins even though the total caloric intake is the same

The more aerobically conditioned you are the more fat you are able to burn.
 

Types of fats
Not all fats are equal.

There are different types of fats; saturated fats, unsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Saturated fats are virtually inert and their only biological role is to be burned for energy.

Saturated fat should be avoided because our liver manufactures blood cholesterol from saturated fat. So the more you eat the more it makes. Excessive blood cholesterol is very dangerous.

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the fats that should be mostly used.

Monounsaturated fats tend to have a protective effect on blood cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL levels (good cholesterol).

Scientific References:

1.Wade, G. N. 1983. Physiology Behavior, 29: 710
2. Jen, K. L., et al. 1981. Physiology Behavior 72: 161
3. Wade, G. N. 1983. Physiology Behavior, 29: 710
4. Jen, K. L., et al. 1981. Physiology Behavior 72: 161
5. Ivy, J. L.; Costill, D. L.; Maxwell, B. D. 1980. Skeletal muscle determinants of maximum aerobic power in man. European Journal of Applied Physiology 44: 1-8.

 

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