Fats can be Saturated or Unsaturated.
1) Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are saturated because all of their carbon atoms have hydrogen attached to all of the spare valence electrons with strong single bonds. Unlike unsaturated fats which have at least one double bond.
Saturated fats can be short, medium and long-chain.
Short-chain SaFAs contain 4 to 6 carbon atoms, found in butter, milk fat, coconut and palm oil.
- Butyric acid from butter with 4 carbon atoms help feed the friendly bacteria that keep our colon healthy.
- Caprylic acid (8:0) and Caproic acid (6:0) found in palm and coconut oil, and goats milk are used to inhibit the growth of yeast and candida in our intestines.
Medium-chain SaFAs (MCTs) contain 8-12 carbon atoms. Our body metabolizes MCTs to produce energy. It does not store them as fat.
Long-chain SaFAs (longer than 12 carbon atoms) are used to build cell membranes, etc. The problem is that only a certain amount of long-chain SaFAs are required, any surplus remain in the blood stream as fat, where they can aggregate and cause problems.
They are solid at room temperature and tend to stick together to form droplets and thus forming sticky platelets that can readily form blood clots in the artery, one of the major health problems related to human nutrition.
Long-chain SaFAs are thought to play a major role in cardiovascular disease which plague populations whose diets are high in beef, pork, poultry and dairy products containing large amounts of long-chain SaFAs.
They can be deposited within cells, organs and arteries along with cholesterol (a non-polar, very sticky, and extremely hard fatty substance).
Diets high in refined sugars can also create cardiovascular problems, in part because our body converts excess sugar into long-chain SaFAs.
Uda Erasmus author 'Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill'
Long-chain SaFAs are also implicated in Type2 Diabetes in that they are believed to clog the insulin receptors in muscle cells and thus prevent the cells from allowing glucose for energy production and thus raising the blood glucose levels.
Thus we see that not all saturated fats are created equal. The short and medium chain SaFAs are good fats. The long-chain SaFAs found primarily in animal products are the ones to limit.
2) Unsaturated Fats
Unsaturated fats consist of Monounsaturated (one double bond), and polyunsaturated (more that one double bond).
Double bonds allow the fat to be more fluid since the double bond causes the molecule to kink and thus be more flexible ie not allow them to aggregate.
Monounsaturated fats (omega-7 and omega-9 fats) include:
- Palmitoleic acid (omega-7 fat) (one double bond at the 7th carbon atom) has 16 carbon atoms. It is found in coconut and palm oil.
- Oleic acid is an omega-9 fat with 18 carbon atoms. It is found in olive oil, almonds, avocado, and macadamia nuts.
Polyunsaturated fats consist of omega-3 and omega-6:
omega-6 fats include:
- Linoleic acid (LA) with 18 carbon atoms and 2 double bonds at the 6th and 12th carbon atoms, found in safflower, sunflower, hemp, soybean, walnut, sesame and flax seed.
- Arachidonic acid (AA) with 20 carbon atoms is found in animal products. It is used to make series 2 prostaglandins that are used in fighting disease.
omega-3 fats include:
- Alpha-Linolenic acid (LNA) with 18 carbon atoms and 3 double bonds. Found in flax, chia, and hemp seed, walnut and dark green leaves.
- Stearidonic acid (SDA) with 18 carbon atoms and 4 double bonds, found in black currant seeds.
- EPA and DHA with 20 and 22 carbon atoms and 5 and 6 double bonds respectively found in the oils of cold water fish and marine animals eg salmon, trout, sardines. Essential for our brains and cell membranes. From EPA our body makes series 3 prostaglandins with many beneficial effects on health.
The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 1:1 although that is extremely difficult to achieve with today's diet which contains very little omega-3 compared to our ancestors who ate more wild fish, nuts and seeds. More realistic is a ratio of 4 :1 omega-6 to omega-3. Basically achieve this by consuming as much omega-3 as possible and avoiding as much omega-6 as possible, since we get plenty of omega-6 already without even realizing it.
The message to be taken away from this is that only the long-chain SaFAs (animal products) and the omega-6 fats are to be consumed sparingly.
Taken from 'Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill' by Udo Erasmus.
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