Monday, August 9, 2010
Cutting Through The Fat...
Fatt. Why the extra 't'? Because generally fat(t) is made out to be the bad guy, a four-letter word so to say. We have the healthcare system, government and numerous health organizations to thank for the common, long held belief that dietary fat is evil. This is not the case, look at few examples in the literature here, here, and here. This is not to say that some fats aren't better choices than others however. Here's a quick lesson detailing some important facts on fats.
There are two major subclasses of fat - they are saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are carbon chains with no double bonds and are solid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are carbon chains containing, one - (monounsaturated), or more - (polyunsaturated), double bonds in the chain. Unsaturated fats, by nature, are liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are solidified through the process of hydrogenation which results in the formation of Trans fat, which is neither natural nor healthy in most cases. (For a more in-depth look at each fat type click on the links above.)
Now let's look at omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Both are 'essential' fatty acids meaning that the body needs them. Unfortunately, our diets tend to be VERY omega-6 heavy and low on the omega-3 side. Long chain omega-3 fatty acids are primarily found in fatty fish (salmon, tuna, etc.) and grass-fed meats. The omega-3's host a myriad of benefits such as mental function, immune enhancement, inflammation control and cardiovascular health. Omega-6 fatty acids are present in high amounts in vegetable oils, nuts, flax, etc. While essential and important the omega-6's tend to be pro-inflammatory, and immune suppressive in high amounts. The ideal ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids is 1:1 or 2:1. The Standard American Diet (SAD) has most individuals coming in with a 10:1 -25:1 ratio. This ratio imbalance has been linked to many serious, deadly health effects like, heart attack, stroke, insulin resistance, diabetes, depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, Alzheimers, arthritis, obesity, accelerated aging, and many others. So, TAKE YOUR FISH OIL!!!
The omega-3's aren't the only good guys on the field though. There are other fats that have been found to have beneficial health effects also. Many of these lipids are currently being further studied to solidify their positive health implications. Here's a quick look at some of the new up and comers.
Phosphatidyl Choline is the primary fraction of lecithin (think egg yolks). Phosphotidyl choline provides a bioavailable, timed release choline source. Both choline and lecithin have properties that may aid in liver, cognitive, cardiovascular and reproductive health along with fetal development, and enhanced physical and athletic performance, (article), (article).
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are most commonly sourced from coconut. (This is why coconut is SO good for us!!) Even though these fatty acids are saturated, they are short (8-12 carbons). This results in the body absorbing and metabolizing them differently than longer chain triglycerides. MCTs may play important roles in energy delivery for athletes, weight and appetite control in those looking to get lean, and have been shown to have positive effects on immune function and heart disease prevention.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) has been touted for its anti-carcinogenic properties for over 20 years. CLA has also been associated with reduced inflammatory response and cardiovascular disease as well as, increased lean body mass and reduced fat mass in overweight individuals, (article), (article). CLA is naturally present in grass-fed beef and milk from grass-fed cattle.
There you have it. The fat has been chewed. Now it's up to you to decide which fats you're going to choose.