Sunday, 20 May 2012

The FAT(s) reminds us of cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, diabetes.

Saturated fats are found in animal products such as meat, poultry, milk, cheese, butter, and lard, as well as in tropical oils (such as palm, palm kernel, and coconut oil) and foods made from these oils. These fats are high in cholesterol and linked to heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, and cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate.
Most people get 38 percent or more of the day’s calories from fat while health authorities suggest no more than 20–35 percent of which less than 10 percent comes from saturated fat. To cut your intake of saturated fat, trim fat and skin from meat, choose lean poultry over red meat, and low-fat cheese and dairy (cottage cheese, feta, and hard cheeses have less fat). Butter is fine in moderation, according to some health officials.

For years margarine was considered to be a healthier alternative to butter, however most margarines contain hydrogenated oils (trans fats), which are artificial processed fats linked to heart disease and cancer. The exception is non-hydrogenated margarines, such as Becel, which contain beneficial plant sterols that can help lower cholesterol. While butter contains saturated fats, they are short-chain saturates, which are easily digested and provide a source of useable energy. Butter also contains nutrients: lecithin, vitamins A and E, and selenium. So the bottom line is: Choose butter or a non-hydroge- nated margarine.

Trans fatty acids are naturally found in small amounts in animal products; however, the majority of trans fats in our diet come from the artificial form. Trans fats are created when oils undergo a chemical process called hydrogenation, which solidifies them. This is the process that makes vegetable oil into margarine. Trans fat is also found in cookies, crackers, french fries, baked goods, and other snack foods.
When trans fats were first introduced into our food supply, they were thought to be a healthier alternative to saturated fats. Many years later this was found to be false. Trans fats elevate cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for heart disease and heart attack, and are also linked to cancer, particularly breast cancer. The Institute of Medicine has stated that there is no safe limit for trans fats in the diet and that we should reduce consumption of these dangerous fats. Food companies have been making efforts in this area. You will now see many packaged foods labelled “trans fat free.”

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the fats (lipids) in our blood. It is manufactured in the liver and also obtained from consuming saturated and trans fats. Cholesterol is not all bad the body requires it to produce sex hormones, maintain cell membranes, and for a healthy nervous system. Aside from diet, cholesterol levels can be elevated by family history, lack of activity, and liver disorders, and cholesterol consumption increases the risk of heart disease.
As with fats, there is good and bad when it comes to cholesterol. The good cholesterol is HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and the bad is LDL (low-density lipoproteins). LDL cholesterol can build up in the artery walls of the brain and heart, narrowing the passageways for blood flow, a process known as atherosclerosis, the precursor to heart disease and stroke.
HDL cholesterol is called good cholesterol because it picks up the LDL deposited in the arteries and transports it to the liver to be broken down and eliminated.
To lower LDL and raise HDL levels, exercise regularly, minimize saturated fats, avoid trans fats, and don’t smoke (smoking lowers HDL).

Triglycerides (TG) are the chemical form in which most fats exist in food (both animal and plant fats). They are also present in the blood along with cholesterol.
A diet that is high in fat, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol can elevate TGs. Overeating also raises TG because excess calories are converted to fat in the liver and then into TG to be transported in the blood. High levels of triglycerides are associated with heart disease and diabetes. It is possible for triglycerides to be high even when blood cholesterol is normal, so get your levels checked regularly. In most cases, TG levels can be effectively managed with diet and exercise.