Dr. Samuel Klein Danforth professor of medicine and nutritional science at Washington University, Jennifer Ebelhar, a registered dietitian with St. Louis University, Dr. James Shoemaker, professor, biochemist and dietitian with St Louis University; Dr. Anne Goldberg, an endocrinologist and physician with Washington University school of Medicine; the U. S. Food and Drug Administration, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In recent years here’s what scientific medicine and nutrition communities have said about dietary fats: Fats are bad for you; fats are good for you; fats cause cancer; fats don’t cause cancer. Fats cause weight gain; fats don’t’ cause weight gain.
Get the picture?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Here‘s a guide to help clear up some of the confusion about fat and its effects on the human body.
What is Fat?
Fat is oil. Chemically, it’s a long carbon molecule with different configurations of hydrogen molecules attached and it won’t dissolve in water.
Dietary fat has lots of destination after it’s eaten….not just to the hips…. Its primary use is to burn as fuel.
“Ironically, (fat) is a light weight way to store fuel,” said Dr. James Shoemaker of St. Louis University of Medicine. He’s also a biochemist and a molecular biologist and has a doctorate degree in nutrition. “Fat can store fuel without water… If you stored carbohydrate, that takes water, and water weighs more than fat.”
In addition to being stored or burned, fat acts as a shock absorber between the organs, as insulation to regulate temperature, as padding beneath the skin and as a means to dissolve vitamins that don’t dissolve in water.
All types of fat pose two problems:
• Fat caused health issues when it lingers in the bloodstream.
• All fats are high-calorie foods. That’s why some researchers say any fats are bad when you get too much, and good when you
get just enough.
The relationship between humans and fat began with our ancient ancestors. Fat was a rare commodity from the animals they hunted, and so the human physiology learned to hold on to dietary fats.
But as time moved on, the human body found itself ill-equipped to handle a state of perpetual abundance with most food flavored with fat. That has resulted in obesity and clogged blood vessels.
What People Eat
People eat four basic types of fat. Each category has lots of versions, but these are the names you hear:
• Saturated fats are from red meat and poultry.
• Monounsaturated fats include fish oil and olive oil.
• Polyunsaturated fats come from vegetables and grains.
• Trans fats are manufactured fats.
Lipids are fatty substances in the blood. When your doctor orders a “lipid panel”, here is what he is looking at:
• Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a waxy substance used to build cell membranes, skin, and nerve tissue. The liver manufactures the ONLY
cholesterol you need. However, you can’t avoid getting extra cholesterol, especially if you eat meat and dairy products.
Cholesterol travels around the body by connecting to proteins. That’s where it’s differentiated between bad and good cholesterol.
LDL is low-density Cholesterol. It’s bad. That means there is more cholesterol than protein, which makes it more prone to clog blood vessels.
HDL is high-density Cholesterol. It’s good. That means there is more protein than cholesterol. It doesn’t clog blood vessels, and when it bumps into bad cholesterol, it sticks to it and carries it from the bloodstream. Egg yokes, liver, organ meat, some shellfish, and whole milk are sources of dietary cholesterol.
• Triglycerides: Explaining how fat becomes triglycerides is complicated. Triglycerides are the fats that have been processed by the body and are on their way to being burned or stored. If you have high triglycerides, you’re eating too many fat calories and not exercising enough. Doctors use triglycerides as an indicator to overall health.
Making Good Choices
Medical people agree that Americans eat too much fat – way too much.
The good news is that food scientists estimate that American fat consumption consists of an enormous amount of added fat, put in or spread on something as an ingredient – some estimate as high as 75 %.
“I’d say that’s true,” said Shoemaker of St. Louis University. “We need about 1% of our diet to come from fat. However, we eat 20, 30, and 40 times that amount”.
But if it’s added, it can be removed. First don’t submerge food in cooking oil. Submerging it in oil adds 200 – 300 calories,” says Dr. Anne Goldberg, and endocrinologist and physician with Washington University school of Medicine. Second, watch the food labels. Fat in processed food can be avoided by finding healthier alternatives. Avoid adding fat by eating more food that doesn’t come out of a factory. Goldberg said – that means more fruit and vegetables, less red meat, lots of water and no heavy oil cooking. Also, at a minimum exercise according to recommendations from the United States Department of Agriculture – that’s moderately intense activity for 30 minutes a day, for most days a week. A stronger heart pushes blood through blockages, and cleaner blood is less likely to cause a blockage.
The Bottom Line
So, how much fat can you eat? The U. S. Department of Agriculture recommends that less that 10 % of your daily calories come from saturated fat. You should eat as little Trans fat as possible; most fat in your diet should be polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Keep your total fat intake at 20% to 35% of daily calories.