How To Know Which Fat Is Bad For You
Which kind fat is healthy?
This is a very important question to answer if you are interested in longevity. Knowing which fat to eat can be pretty much confusing since fats come in varieties which could give one a tough time determining which is or is not healthy, making a lot of people mindlessly consume all types of fats as they come, putting them at risk of developing a heart condition.
In this article, we explore the variety of fats we have and the threats or benefits they pose to our health in general.
Now, fats or “lipids” as professionals call it, is that class of food that is generally insoluble in water and can be obtained from both plants and animals. It is a molecule that is essential in formation of various body structures but can cause problems when there’s too much of its bad varieties in the bloodstream. Animal fats, not all though, have a reputation of being “not too healthy” for consumption while plant fat (which are mostly oils) have a GRADE-A reputation on the menu.
Many things can go wrong in the body when people consume “bad fats” excessively, and most times these disease conditions are lethal because of the involvement of vital organs, especially the heart.
Fats are manifest as either TRIGLYCERIDES, PHOSPHOLIPIDS or CHOLESTEROL at least majorly, and fatty acids are either saturated, unsaturated or branched chain. Most of your intake should be from unsaturated fat and that is because this category of fats are referred to as “essential fatty acids” meaning that they cannot be synthesized in the body and have to be provided in the diet.
Whether a particular fat is saturated or unsaturated or polyunsaturated is all dependent on its chemical structure, a slight change in chemical structure will leave fat solid at room temperature (saturated fat) or liquid at room temperature (mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)
Saturated fat is abundant in animal meat including beef, poultry, pork. Processed meats are particularly high in saturated fats and should be avoided. In fact, any fat that solidifies at room temperature is highly saturated and is not healthy. A highly saturated fat diet increases blood cholesterol concentration 15 to 25 per cent and people with high blood levels of cholesterol are at risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is the most common type of steroid in the body. It has a reputation for being associated with an increased risk for heart and blood vessel disease. However, cholesterol is essential to the formation of bile acids, vitamin D, female hormones (progesterone, estrogens), male hormones (testosterone), mineralocorticoid hormones (aldosterone, corticosterone), and glucocorticoid hormones (cortisol). Cholesterol is also necessary to the normal permeability and function of the membranes that surround cells. But as important as this lipid is, it could be potentially dangerous in high concentrations in the blood. A diet high in saturated fats tends to increase blood cholesterol levels, whereas a diet high in unsaturated fats tends to lower blood cholesterol levels. Although some cholesterol is obtained from the diet, most cholesterol is made in the liver and other tissues. After the age of 20, Doctors recommend cholesterol testing every 5 years.
Saturated fats are abundant in certain plant oils such as palm kernel or coconut oil, dairy products including cheese, butter, and milk, processed meats including bologna, sausages, hot dogs, and bacon, Pre-packaged snacks including crackers, chips, cookies, and pastries.
Unsaturated fats are generally valued for their ability to lower blood levels of cholesterol and they are abundant in olive oilwhile Polyunsaturated fats are abundant in sunflower oil and corn oil. Other foods which contain unsaturated fats include:Nuts, plant oils, fish like salmon, tuna, and anchovies, which contain omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, olives, avocados.Consuming mostly unsaturated fats is considered a good way to get the fats your body needs with less worry about your cholesterol levels or your risk of heart disease.
The plasma concentration of these high-cholesterol low density lipoproteins is increased by several factors, including eating highly saturated fat in the daily diet, obesity and physical inactivity and to a lesser extent, eating excess cholesterol.
Problems Associated With Bad Fat
One major problem associated with consumption of bad fat amongst other causative factors is Atherosclerosis (Athero –having to do with the artery, Sclerosis – fibrosis or accumulation of fibrous connective tissue) which is a disease of arteries in which fatty lesions called “atheromatous plaques” develop on the inside surfaces of arterial walls. The arteries involved lose their distensibility, and because of the degenerative areas in their walls, they are easily ruptured.
This disease could result in a heart attack which could be fatal when the arteries that supply the heart (coronary arteries) are involved, it could result in a stroke if the carotid arteries that supply the head/brain are involved.
One very important risk factor for atherosclerosis is high blood cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) in the form of low density lipoproteins. Now, lipoproteins are lipid substances formed in the liver and involved in the transport of cholesterol in the body. A type of lipoprotein – low density lipoprotein – has an especially high cholesterol concentration and is commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol”. Blood concentration of cholesterol is increased by eating a highly saturated fat diet, obesity, and lack of exercise. People with full-blown hypercholesterolemia may have blood cholesterol levels that are four to six times normal. Many of these people die before age 20 because of myocardial infarction (heart attack). Heart attack is the death of heart muscle due to the loss of blood supply.
The loss of blood supply is usually caused by a complete blockage of a coronary artery; one of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle. Death of the heart muscle, in turn, causes chest pain and electrical instability of the heart muscle tissue. It is usually fatal if not promptly attended to.
Other risks factors for atherosclerosis: In some people with perfectly normal levels of cholesterol and lipoproteins, atherosclerosis still develops. Some of the factors that are known to predispose them to atherosclerosis are: physical inactivity/obesity, Diabetes mellitus, a condition in which the body cannot utilize carbohydrates for energy and has to rely on fats, leading to an increased lipid presence in the blood, which itself is a risk factor for atherosclerosis, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cigarette smoking. Hypertension increases the risk for atherosclerotic coronary artery disease by at least twofold. Likewise, a person with diabetes mellitus has a risk of developing coronary artery disease. When hypertension and diabetes mellitus and obesity occur together, the risk for developing coronary artery disease is increased by more than eightfold, suggesting that these factors interact in a synergistic manner to increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis.
Measures To Protect Yourself Against Heart Diseases Caused By Fat
The most important measures to protect against the development of atherosclerosis and its progression to serious vascular disease are:
- Maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and eating a diet that contains mainly unsaturated fat with a low cholesterol content
- Preventing hypertension by reducing salt intake, and being physically active, or effectively controlling blood pressure with antihypertensive drugs if hypertension does develop.
- Effectively controlling blood glucose with insulin or other drugs if diabetes does develop.
- Avoiding cigarette smoking
- Reducing blood cholesterol levels to normal with drugs that lower plasma lipids and cholesterol if hypercholesterolemia does develop.
All of these preventive measures are valuable in decreasing the occurrences of heart attacks and its complications.
Utibe Umoh is a Public health enthusiast, poet and author with a great deal of interest in romance-fiction stories and short essays. His first e-Book, Tales of bliss, was out in 2020 and is currently available on the Amazon Kindle bookstore and free on okadabooks.com bookstore.
He currently pursues a degree in Medicine and Surgery at the College of Health Sciences, University of Uyo and is editor-in-chief for his Medical student association. He is content creator for Ray of thought - an assembly of young thinkers who are out to impact the world positively - and enjoys listening to classical music at his leisure hours.