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The Bad and Ugly Fats: Saturated Fats and Trans Fats

Aug 25, 2008
Primarily found in animal proteins and some vegetable sources, saturated fats can be a powerfully damaging food, more so from some sources than others. However, given the fact that human breast milk contains saturated fat, I do not think that all saturated fat sources have negative effects on the body. Saturated fat is a very concentrated source of fuel, and different types of saturated fat, coming from animal sources especially, have been linked definitively to very high levels of inflammation and disease, especially when we overexpose our bodies more than once in a 24-hour period.

High amounts of saturated fat can cause a rapid increase in the inflammatory process soon after it's eaten. Beginning in the mouth and moving all the way through the digestive tract, this inflammation can end up in the smallest systems of the human cell.

Sources of highly-concentrated saturated fat include:

* cream and all milk except skimmed
* cheese
* lard
* butter, regular ice cream (made from cow milk fat)
* meats (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb)
* processed meats
* coconut oil
* cottonseed oil
* palm seed oil (not the palm fruit)
* chicken fat
* ghee (used in Indian food)


A related type of lipid, or fat, in our diet is cholesterol, which is found in many foods that also contain fats. We need cholesterol but should avoid excessiveamounts of it. Cholesterol occurs naturally in the body and is also absorbed from food. An average body produces around 800-1000 mg of cholesterol and takes in an additional 200-300 mg from food. We need this cholesterol to create and maintain cell membranes, break down fats, and absorb vitamins (especially Vitamin D).

Cholesterol also plays a role in the production of bile and of hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone, progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. In the brain, cholesterol assists in the maintenance of nerve synapses. Cholesterol also plays an important role in our immune system.

Sources of highly-concentrated cholesterol include:

* eggs
* dairy products
* animal meats, both lean and fat
* organ meats
* lard

The Ugly: Trans Fats

The trans fats in the standard American diet are especially damaging. These mostly man-made fats actually begin as an unsaturated fat, usually a vegetable oil, which is mixed with hydrogen gas and platinum catalysts, then heated to temperatures in excess of 500 F to make it more solid and to give it a longer shelf life. This recipe results in changing the molecular makeup of healthy fatty acids into disfigured, twisted molecules--trans fat--often listed on food labels as hydrogenated fats or oils. Serve them hot or cold, and your body will deliver this toxic, inflammatory mixture to every cell in your body, including your brain cells. Chronic exposure to man-made trans fat found in thousands of processed foods from salad dressings to snacks, margarines to cake mixes can be very toxic to everyone, but extremely toxic to Apo E 4s. It is very difficult for the body to get rid of these types of molecules once they are incorporated in its cellular structure, and this can cause severe chronic disease states.

One of the reasons we have so much trans fat in our diet is due to a very powerful consumer interest group that campaigned to remove saturated fat and palm seed oil from our food. The drive in the early 1980s to remove saturated fats led to the food processors using something even worse--trans fat, but in the early 1990s we began to realize the damage it causes. In January 2006 we saw even more subversive uses of trans fat via legislation with a labeling loophole allowing foods less than 0.5 mg per serving of fat to be labeled nonfat. This means that you can still get a dose of trans fat in your "0" trans fat-labeled food. Best read the label and the ingredients!

While trans fat has been produced and used in food for more than 100 years, we still have much to learn about its effects on the development of cell membranes, brain cells, arterial inflammatory plaque development, and growing fetal brain tissue. We do know that our body manufactures cell membranes from the fats we eat, so if our diet is high in inflammatory fats, we are creating defective cell membranes, hormones, and brain cells.

Could this be why we have so much brain pathology, with severe neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson disease? We do not yet have conclusive evidence, but logic tells us this could be a cause. Once again, we need to take precautions by removing these fats from our diet. Remember that no evidence of harm is not equal to evidence of no harm.

The food processing industry is very powerful. As long as using trans fat saves money, increases food shelf life, and provides more flavor, they will continue to use the hydrogen process, unless forced to stop.

As a medical practitioner on the front lines, I say let logic prevail! We all need to learn more about food so we can make better food choices. Education is our best weapon. Toward the end of your life, it will be your long-term food choices that determine whether you will be playing with backpacks or bedpans.

As a consumer, you can change the way the food industry produces the foods you purchase. The choice is simple -- don't buy foods with inflammatory trans fats in them. As Marion Nestle, PhD, mph, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health and What to Eat, says, "Vote with Your Fork." I agree with Marion, because behind your fork is green power -- money!

Important sources of trans fat to avoid include:

* stick margarine
* deep-fried fast food
* commercial cookies
* crackers
* commercial dessert pastries such as pies and cakes
* sports drinks (a popular brand added a "Z factor," which turned out to be trans fat)
About the Author
Pamela McDonald is a leading Integrative Medicine Nurse Practitioner, who specializes in the prevention of heart and Alzheimer's disease, and chronic illness. To learn more about her groundbreaking book, and program - visit APO E Gene Diet. To subscribe to her free APO E Gene Diet Health Notes - send a blank email to Info@ApoeGenediet.com.
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