Good And Bad Fatty Acids
Fat has been looked at with caution, and it has
often been perceived as the villain.
There has been a perception, that fat is the "bad
guy", the enemy that is responsible for obesity, heart disease, clogged arteries
and other ailments. A lot of products line the supermarket shelves and proclaim
that they are "no-fat" or "low-fat" or "cholesterol-free".
of all it is necessary to realize that there are fats that are essential
and vital for us. As mentioned before, our bodies need to have essential
fatty acids, as it cannot make them out of other nutrients. There
are fats, which are beneficial, and a small amount in our food plays a role to
slow down the entry of carbohydrates into the bloodstream.
It also sends
hormonal signals to the brain: we feel satiated and no longer hungry. As a sensible
rule of thumb we should not exceed 30% of our caloric intake from fat!
group of "good" fats are called monounsaturated fats. They
occur in olives or in olive oil, avocados, almonds and macadamia nuts.
there is the group of the poyunsaturated fats, which are divided into
1. Those containing omega-3 fatty acids, a "good fat"
source occuring in foods like salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna or fish oil.
Then there is the sub-group containing omega-6 fatty acids,
occurring in corn oil, sesame oil, and grapeseed oil. They need to be balanced
by omega-3-fatty acids or they could lead to inflammatory conditions like arthritis
It is the saturated fats, that are the "bad"
fats. They occur in animal fats like butter, lard, and dairy fat, but they
are also found in tropical oils (palm oil or coconut oil). The follwoing table
was summarized by me from data of Ref. 3, p. 108-109).
|Fat, the good, the
bad and the ugly|
and omega-3-fatty acids ||good because they
are the only essential fatty acid that the body cannot make: found in salmon,
mackerel, sardines, tuna or fish oil.|
fatty acids||good, because
not prone to oxidizing and no effect on insulin: found in olives, olive oil, avocados,
almonds and macadamia nuts|
acids ||only neutral, if balanced with omega-3-fatty
acids: corn oil,sesame oil, and grapeseed oil|
fats ||raises LDL (=bad) cholesterol, found
in animal fats like butter, lard, dairy fat, but also found in tropical oils (palm
oil and coconut oil)|
ugly":||hydrogenated fat or partially
hydrogenated fat, trans fatty acids, "pure vegetable shortening" ||good
for long shelf-life of cookies, bad for your heart. Increases LDL and lowers HDL
cholesterol. Found in margarine, deep fried foods, lard, vegetable shortening|
Unfortunately there is another group that is the worst of
them all, those fats which contain trans fatty acids. They are called
trans fats and are like the new bad kid on the block: before the 20 th century
they did not exist.
They were developed in an effort to transform liquid
oils into a spreadable fat. This way margarine was created. Also, the shelf life
of products containing trans fats is longer. This way, butter, which is an animal
fat that forms the bad cholesterol, plugs up arteries , and leads to heart attacks
and strokes was replaced. It certainly was cheaper than the expensive butter,also
it did not turn rancid like butter, but the trans fats in the margarine are even
worse than the fat in butter.Trans fats raise the bad cholesterol and at the same
time lower the good cholesterol, which is a double whammy to wreak havoc with
Despite all the claims that some margarines are lower in trans
fat than others and are labelled "heart healthy", be aware that trans
fats at this point don't have to be listed on food labels. If you read the word
it means "bad trans fats"!Foods
with high trans fat levels are best avoided altogether: deep fried foods like
french fries, chips or nachos are on this list. Cookies, pies and snack foods
are also on the "not wanted" list. A wide range of commercial bakery
products are prepared with shortening. The harmless sounding term "pure
vegetable shortening" is a trans fat and not harmless at all!
do's and don'ts about fat intake |
make sensible and healthy choices you do not need a degree in nutrition. All you
have to do is:
1. Read the labels and ingredient
2. Avoid products, which contain hydrogenated
or partially hydrogenated fats.
3. Eat one food
per day, which contains omega-3 fats.(If you do not like fish, take two capsules
of fish oil.)
4. Use some monounsaturated fats
like olive oil.
5. Do not exceed the 30% mark
of fat in your daily caloric consumption.
these simple guidelines, fat will be your nutritional ally and not an enemy.
acid (fish oil):
Fish oil (omea-3-fatty acids) has been shown
to stop inflammation and as such is good for all the chronic inflammatory conditions
like cardiovascular disease (prevention of strokes and heart attacks), arthritis,
metabolic syndrome associated with obesity, lung diseases like asthma and COPD,
Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and even cancer (breast cancer, prostate
cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer; Ref. 8, 12, 13).
It turns out that the
aging person is no longer producing natural substances, called pro-resolution
molecules like lipoxins, resolvins and protectins, which help to overcome chronic
inflammation (Ref.11). This is what causes the aches and pains in aging people
and what causes the above mentioned diseases. Omega-3-fatty acids elevate lipoxin
and resolvin levels (Ref.9). This is the reason why omega-3 fatty acid supplements
have anti-inflammatory properties and why they are useful in the above mentioned
diseases. Not only are they helpful for prevention, but also to immediately stop
In the past small amounts of aspirin (ASA) were recommended
to prevent heart attacks and strokes, but this is associated with serious side-effects
like bleeding ulcers. Fish-oil (omega-3-fatty acids and DHA) has been proven to
be more effective in controlling inflammation than ASA with no side-effects (Ref.10).
Ref. 12 and 13 lists 102 references that support the effectiveness of omega-3-fatty
acids in lowering blood pressure in obese patients, reducing heart arrhythmias
in diabetics, improving survival in patients with heart failure, reducing triglyceride
levels and improving the function of the lining within the blood vessels. Lung
disease and asthma are improved dramatically with 1000 mg/day of EPA and 2000
mg/day DHA from fish oil, which showed a reduction in inflammatory substances
known as cytokines (Ref. 13). Cognitive function is improved in patients with
Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease because of the production of protectins
due to omega-3 DHA from fish oil. Ref. 12 and 13 describe these studies in more
detail. Even cancer that is associated with increased chronic inflammation can
be improved. For instance, 2000 mg/day of EPA was found to reduce abnormal crypt
cells in patients who were at a higher risk for developing colon cancer and who
underwent colonoscopies (Ref. 13).
In summary, omega-3-fatty acid supplements
with EPA and DHA are a must, particularly in the aging baby boomer population.
Doses should be in the range of 2 to 6 grams per day. The fish oil should be a
high potency product -900 mg (=0.9 Gram) to 1000 mg (=1 Gram) per capsule -and
should be molecularly distilled to remove mercury, cadmium, lead and PCB's. Yes,
it is the more expensive product. The latest push for consuming fish as a source
of EPA and DHA avoids the thorny issue of the fact that the oceans now have reached
serious levels of pollution with mercury, cadmium, lead and PCB's. So, if you
want to eat fish, you would have to also get intravenous chelation to combat the
See also this issue of a health newsletter in Jan.