What Is Fat?
Fat is the matter in which excess calories are stored. If you consume more calories than your body needs at any given time, the left over calories will become fat in your body.The more fat that is stored in your body, the more weight you are likely to gain.
One gram of fat provides nine calories. This is twice the number of calories than protein or carbohydrates. One pound of pure fat contains more than 4000 calories compared to 1800 calories a pound of protein or carbohydrate.
A pound of your body fat, which also contains water and proteins, equals 3500 calories. 95% of dietary fats consist of complex molecules called triglycerides. Triglycerides are made up of three smaller substances called fatty acids. There are three types of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
Dietary fats are divided in to four general groups based of chemical and physical composition:
- Saturated fat
- Monounsaturated fat
- Polyunsaturated fat
- Hydrogenated fat
Saturated fat is primarily found in animal foods, (meat and dairy products). Coconut and chocolate are the only common plant foods that are very high in saturated fats. Cocoa butter, palm oil, shortening, and margarine are high in saturated fat.
Saturated fat is most often solid at room temperature.
Monounsaturated fat is primarily found in olives and olive oil, canola oil, and some margarines and vegetable oils.
Monounsaturated fat is liquid or soft at room temperature.
Polyunsaturated fat is found in high concentration in vegetables, fish, and poultry.
Polyunsaturated fat is liquid or soft at room temperature. Hydrogenated fat has been hardened by a process called hydrogenation. Literally, hydrogen is added to vegetable oils to make them into margarine.
Saturated fat has no room in its structure for hydrogen molecules. Monounsaturated fat has room for two molecules of hydrogen.
Polyunsaturated fat has room for four or more hydrogen molecules.
What is the function of fat?
Fat is a carrier for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. it is important to note that all the fat needed for this process is present in vegetables.
Fat provides the materials your body needs for the production of prostaglandins (hormone-like substances your body needs).
Fats form a sticky film around red blood cells and blood platelets.
When these blood cells are clumped together, not only do they cease to function properly, they plug up small capillaries and blood vessels so that healthy blood is unable to travel through these vessels. Eventually, the vessels shut down.
When blood vessels shut down, oxygen is not delivered through your body. Decreased oxygen causes decreased energy.
After a rich and fatty meal, many feel the need for a nap. This is not a healthy snooze; this is your body lowering its activities, responding to the lack of oxygen needed to keep it going. A cigarette, after a meal like this, creates an immense oxygen tie-up. Not only is your blood sticky with clumps of blood cells, your lungs are fogged with carbon monoxide from smoke. You are, literally, suffocating yourself.
Doctors have compared fat-laden blood to syrup and sludge.
This waxy substance coursing through your blood vessels eventually builds up on the walls of your blood vessels.
The buildup narrows the amount of room each vessel has to allow blood to flow freely. This leads to clogging and hardening of the arteries-a disease known as atherosclerosis.
A reduced blood flow in specific areas of the body can cause:
- Chest pain, angina, or heart attack
- Decreased ability to walk if blood vessels are narrowed in the legs
- Temporary blockage of a vessel to the brain known as transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- Loss of hearing; ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and loss of balance (vertigo) when blood vessels to the inner ear are clogged
- Elevation of blood pressure
- Reduced lung function
- Sudden death
Because of the modern and intense research into cancer and cholesterol, data is more advanced, more abundant, and highly scrutinized. This data is pointing to a new fact: fats promote the growth of cancers.
Cancer of the colon, kidneys, ovaries, testicles, prostate, uterus, breasts, and lymphomas are very prevalent within populations consuming diets rich in fat.
Fats also impair the function of blood cells in the immune system. Obesity is often associated with an increased incidence of infection and illness. Fat contributes to the development of adult onset diabetes. A high amount of fat inthe bloodstream actually blocks the action of insulin. Since insulin is secreted by the pancreas in order to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood, high fat levels cause dangerously high blood sugar levels rise too high.
A fat restricted diet allows the pancreas and insulin system to work efficiently and may cure adult onset diabetes.
Females consuming a diet high in fat, experience menarche (the first menstrual cycle) at a much earlier age (often at age 12); experience longer, heavier, and more painful periods; and go through menopause at a later age.
How much fat do I need?
No more than 20% of your calories should come from fat. Those aggressively pursuing wellness should eat no more than 10% to 20% of calories as fat.
What are the health benefits of a low-fat non-fat diet?
A person reducing his or her intake of dietary fat decreases the incidence of many, many chronic diseases. In some cases, this type of diet can halt and/or reverse diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Some of the physical dangers mentioned above may never be experienced.
How can I understand fat labels on foods at the grocery store better?
- Often, non-dairy foods contain lots of palm or coconut oil.
- Do not buy foods, which contain hydrogenated soybean oil or vegetable oil.
- Remember, margarine, salad oils, butter, and lard are all 100% fat. That means all the calories are from fat!
- Lean-and low-fat products must contain less than 10% fat.
- Only buy products that have no more than 1 to 2 grams of fat per serving.
Written by: Bruce Scott Sobel, D.O. Copyright 1990 Diabetes Obesity Cholesterol Clinic 6/90, 5/91, f4/92, 11/07