Good Fats, Bad Fats… What’s it all about…

Confused about fats?

I’m not surprised. But you shouldn’t be.
All the furore about fats can be neatly summed up in one sentence.

There is only one fat that is Bad, and that’s Trans Fats…

So if you’re skimming this article (surely not!) just remember that one liner.

But let’s backtrack a bit.

Many people believe that fats are bad, that eating fats makes you fat, or gives you heart disease or that weight loss requires a low fat diet. Why? Unfortunately it’s because some 0 years ago a study (which has since been rubbished) found a link between fat consumption and heart disease. We know now that the study manipulated data (by omitting data that didn’t support this correlation).

For a great summary, read this entry on wikipedia:

But the damage still sticks.

Because since then the food industry, disguising itself as the health industry, has chucked billions of £ at promulgating this (fake) link. So we have low fat everything in stores, low fat advertising on the telly. And it’s really hard to distinguish the truth from the myths.

True story: my partner, who has lived with me for more than a decade, still automatically picks up low fat Greek yoghurt when he’s on a health kick. That’s how entrenched it can get.  (He’s not allowed to do the shopping much…)

So what’s the truth?

Fats have many, superbly important roles to play in your body.

  • Proper functioning of nerves and brain- fats are part of myelin – a fatty material which wraps around our nerve cells so that they can send electrical messages. Our brains contain large amounts of essential fats – 60% apparently
  • Essential fatty acids are essential for growth development and cell functions, but cannot be made by our body’s processes so they need to be ingested.
  • Maintaining healthy skin and other tissues.  All our body cells need to contain some fats  as essential parts of cell membranes, controlling what goes in and out of our cells
  • Transporting fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K through the bloodstream to where they are needed.
  • Forming steroid hormones needed to regulate many bodily processes
  • Providing energy to muscles and energy storage for future use.
  • Keeping us warm
  • Keeping us full, keeps our hunger in check.

The list goes on.
So you see they can’t really be bad…

Except one.

I repeat, there’s only one bad fat and that’s trans fat.

Google says that “Artificial trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. The primary dietary source for trans fats in processed food is “partially hydrogenated oils” so this is what you should look out for on food labels.

Trans fats are highly processed oils (like your chip frying oil, vegetable oils, margarines, etc). Unfortunately it’s in lots of stuff that’s manufactured: cereals, cookies, cakes, ready meals, and so on.

The reason they’re bad is that chemically they are not structured like a natural fat at all. In fact, when they get into your body, your body doesn’t really know what to do with it. So it disrupts equilibrium.

Think of cell membranes as having millions of tiny locks, which nutrient molecules can enter like keys. Changing the shape of the molecule, which is what happens when a fat is hydrogenated, changes the shape of the key, and it doesn’t fit properly into the lock.

Two problems can occur. Either the molecular misfit key is left to wander throughout the body, causing damage in other places. Or these misfit keys keep pushing their way into the locks, damaging them, so that the right keys, the natural nutrients, no longer fit.

Either way, it’s bad news… And the science is now pointing at consumption of trans fats as a risk factor in chronic illnesses such heart disease, stroke and so on.

But what about Cholesterol?
What about it indeed…
Some basics first:

  • cholesterol is a fat
  • you can get it by ingesting it in your food
  • but your body mostly makes it, through biosynthesis

It is thought that your body makes up between 75-90% of your cholesterol level.
Which begs the question, straight away, if it is bad for you, why does your body waste so much energy trying to make it through a complicated but beautiful process?

The answer is, it is a really important component to lots of things:

  1. it is a basic component in all cells in all nature no just humans. without it you couldn’t have a cell.
  2. it is known as the mother of all hormones as it regulates production of estrgoen, testosterone, etc
  3. you need it to convert sunlight into vitamin D
  4. you need it for brain function

And so on…

So, is cholesterol bad for you?

No, is the short answer. And a growing body of scientists hold this view now. Sally Fallon, Malcom Kendrick and Uffe Ravenshov are good people to read.

The long answer is yet another combination of bad science, bad pharma, conspiracy theories which actually aren’t that crazy anymore.

The truth is that our diet has changed dramatically over the last 60-70 years on the basis of really bad science and really bad politics. And the winners from this have been the food industry and the pharmaceutical industries. If you’re worried about cholesterol read some of the articles below.

Some further reading:…/we-have-got-cholesterol-compl…/…/myths-truths-about-choleste…/…/cholesterol-and-heart-dise…/…

And these brilliant books (I have a copy if anyone wishes to borrow it):
The Cholesterol Con Dr Malcolm Kendrick
The truth about Fats. By Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon

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