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Fats and Essential Fatty Acids

Fats and Essential Fatty Acids

There is the great deal of controversy around the truth of including fats and oils in your diet. Many people say that fat and oil cause some common degenerative diseases. The final truth is that unhealthy oils create unhealthy people and healthy oils build health in people.

Fats are short, medium and long chain molecules comprised of many essential fatty acids connected together. Just like protein is comprised of amino acids, so fats are comprised of fatty acids. Some fatty acids are essential to our diet, without which life cannot be sustained. This is to say that the essential fatty acid (EFA) cannot be manufactured in the body in sufficient amounts to supply the needs of the body and so is considered essential to diet for health and well being.

Of primary concern with fats and oils is the condition of rancidity. When oxygen and light are allowed to penetrate oil certain bonds in the molecules are caused to break thus changing the integrity of the oil and turning it rancid. Perhaps in this way oil and fat represent the most fragile and delicate aspect of our diet. For this reason great care must be taken with unsaturated fats and oils to prevent oxygenation, heat and light from damaging the molecules. In general rancidity contributes to premature aging and poor skin health, and subsequent loss of membrane health affecting every cellular function in the body.

These days attention has come to the proper balance of multiple essential fatty acids, specifically omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. Many products coming on the market present multiple fatty acid blends that provide the array of essential fatty acids needed. This actually makes it easier to achieve proper balance because it does not require so much deliberation in selecting foods as a source of unique essential to fatty acids.

Essential fatty acids are vital especially to hormone production and membrane construction at the cellular level. When we use trans fatty acids that have been hydrogenated (bubbled with hydrogen gas to bond and stabilize all the delicate bonding sites thus eliminating rancidity, but also eliminating the ability of the oil to participate in healthy function) there is a displacement of healthy EFA’s by hydrogenated fats attributed to reducing the surface area of the cellular membrane by as much as 70%. This creates the expression “famine in the midst of plenty” due to a loss of surface area for cellular respiration and exchange to occur across.

In the end simply the naturally occurring oils and fats properly protected from light, heat and oxygen are safe and life sustaining. Olive oil and butter are especially good and renowned for the contribution they provide. Non-food source oils (such as cotton seed, borage, and canola or rape seed) should be second to food source oil, and hydrogenation should be avoided completely.

TRANS-FATTY ACIDS

Found in hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats

Research is being reported on adverse effects of trans-fatty acids related to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, low birth weight, obesity and immune dysfunction.

THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF THE ADVERSE AFFECTS REPORTED IN HUMANS AND ANIMALS: *

1. Damage to the functions of cell membranes, when trans-fats become part of membrane structure. (Cell membranes are responsible for transporting nutrients, hormones, etc. in, and waste products out. Cell membranes become "stupid" when made of trans-fats.)

2. Negatively affects fat-based steroid hormone balance and levels (female and male hormones, and adrenal hormones)

3. Increases insulin levels in the blood and contributes to Insulin Resistance

4. Decreases the response of the red blood cells to insulin and contributes to Insulin Resistance even more

5. Escalates the adverse effects of essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency

6. Blocks the conversion of Omega 6 and Omega 3 EFAs into their elongated fatty acids and eicosanoids (cellular hormones)

7. Increases total cholesterol

8. Decreases HDLs and increases LDLs in a dose-dependent manner (The more trans-fats you eat, the more it disrupts your cholesterol balance.

9. Raises the atherosclerosis-forming repair protein (lipoprotein [a]), whereas saturated fats lower this repair protein. (That means that trans-fats irritate the inner artery walls, and saturated fats protect them. This is just the opposite of the food industry propaganda.)

10. Lowers the volume of cream and the quality of breast milk

11. Correlates with low infant birth weight

12. Decrease visual acuity in infants in a dose-dependent manner when they are fed breast milk

containing trans-fats

13. Precipitates childhood asthma

14. Weakens immunity

15. Causes adverse alterations in enzymes that metabolize carcinogens

16. Causes alteration (enlargement) of adipose cell size, cell number, lipid class and fatty acid composition. (Interferes with fats and fat metabolism in the body)


As early as 1958 researchers were claiming trans-fats were culprits in heart disease. The edible oil industry successfully squelched that information, and at the same time, shifted the blame to saturated fats where it has since erroneously remained.

*Enid, Mary G., Ph.D., Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol, Bethesda Press, (2000) pp85-86



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