Not all fats are created equal

Fat are not the enemy part 2

fatty foods

Our bodies need dietary fats:

Our brain and body needs dietary fat and dietary cholesterol to function. Fats are the building blocks for our cells membranes. Fats are carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Our body’s hormones (testosterone, progesterone, DHEA, estrogens, aldosterone along with others) are produced by dietary cholesterol. Eating healthy fats can decrease hunger by the release of the hormone CCK that signals satiety and decreases the cravings for foods.

Our brain needs dietary fats:

More importantly, our brains require a diet of fat for it to work properly. Our brains are composed of 60 percent fat. The majority of which is made up from the omega 3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The brain relies on fats for communication between nerve cells. Studies have show that a deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids has been associated with increased risk for depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Eating high quality fats has been reported to improve cognition, focus and memory. Specifically one study, showed that people who ate the highest levels of fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) had a 44% decreased risk for developing mild cognitive impairment.

Not all fats are not equal:

With that said not all fats are created equal however. Out of these categories there are some that are fats that are better than others.

Fats are broken down into different categories

  1. Saturated (meat, lard, eggs, coconut oil, butter)
  2. Unsaturated
    1. Monounsaturated fats (olive oils, avocados, peanuts, almonds)
    2. Polyunsaturated fats
      1. Omega 3 fatty acids (herring, salmon, flax seed, nuts)
      2. Vegetable oils (corn, safflower, soy, and sunflower oils)
    3. Trans fatty acids (margarine, shortening)

The best fats are the monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats that contain omega 3 fatty acids. Saturated fats, previously felt to be the ‘bad fat’ has since been shown to actually be beneficial to the body. The unhealthy fats are the trans fatty acids and vegetable oils.

The saturated fats along with omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid have also been shown to decrease inflammation, where as the omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acid increase inflammation. In a prior blog post, I discussed that increasing the amount of omega 3 compared omega 6 fatty acids in your diet has been shown to be helpful in migraine patients. The polyunsaturated fatty acid that contain a higher ratio of omega 6 compared omega 3 fatty acids, which should be avoided include corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil and cottonseed oil

Saturated fats, specifically, have gotten a bad rap in the past for the concern that it could increase the risk of atherosclerosis or clogged arteries in the heart. As discussed in another blog post, actually it was found that people who switched to vegetable oils instead of saturated fats had HIGHER risk of heart attacks and death.

So where are the best sources of these healthy fats?

  • Fatty fish: sardines, mackerel, herring and salmon contain a high level of omega 3 fatty acids
  • Nuts: pecans, walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts are a great source of healthy unsaturated fats.
  • Seeds: pumpkin, sesame, chia, and flax seeds
  • Avocados
  • Whole eggs
  • Olive oils: preferably extra -virgin
  • Coconut oil
  • Grass feed butter and other animal products

 

Bibliography

Freeman, M. E. (2006). Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Evidence Basis for Treatment and Future Research in Psychriatry. Journal of Clinical Psychriatry, 67, 1954-1967.
Lawrence, G. D. (2013). Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence. Advances in Nutrition, 4, 294-302.
Ramsden, C. E. (2016). Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73). British Medical Journal, 353, 1-17.
Ramsden, C. E. (2013). Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death: evaluation of recovered data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and updated meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 346, 1-18.
Roberts, R. E. (2010). Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Reduced Odds of MCI: The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 21, 853-865.