The truth about fats

Published 10:13 am Friday, April 19, 2013

If there has ever been a component of the human diet debated and misunderstood, well beyond normal limits, it would have to be fats.

Media reports are filled with new findings on the benefits or dangers of certain fats, and food manufactures, with their claims complicate the controversy even further. With all the negative implication of fats, we often overlook the essential role they play in so many of our body’s chemical reactions.

1. Fats provide us a substantial energy supply that may be used by the body in times of need.

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2. Fats carry “fat soluble” vitamins A, D, E and K throughout the body. These vitamins, needed for good health, but don’t dissolve in water, so they can’t be taken into cells without first mixing with “lipids” (fats).

3. Fats are necessary for many chemical reactions within the body. They’re needed for proper growth in children, and healthy cell membranes, including healthy skin. Fats are also responsible for the production of prostaglandins. These are hormone like substances that regulate a number of the body’s chemical processes.

4. Fats make eating more enjoyable by adding aroma, flavor and texture to food, thus making it more palatable. Since fats are slow to digest, they satisfy hunger, even after proteins and carbohydrates have left the stomach. Also, fats stimulate the walls of the intestines to release a substance called cholecystokinin, which suppresses appetite, and helps prevent hunger.

5. Fats act as temperature regulators. About half of one’s body fat is stored just below the skin’s surface, known as subcutaneous fat. This layer acts as insulation. That’s why thin people tend to be more sensitive to cold, while overweight people tend to be more bothered by heat. When it comes to fat consumption, only water and carbohydrates are more plentiful in the typical American diet. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 35 to 40 percent of calories consumed in the average American diet come from fats. Fatty acids are one of the major building blocks of fat. Fats that are made up of one or two fatty acids and a glyceride are known as monoglycerides and diglycerides. Three fatty acids plus a molecule of glycerin are known as triglycerides, which make up about 95 percent of dietary fat and 90 percent of body. Basically, triglycerides mean “fat in the blood”. Now, the average consumer probably doesn’t want to know, nor could care less about the chemical sources of fats. What is important to know, for good health, is a fat’s level of saturation. These types of fat are usually referred to as saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The worst of these is saturated fat.