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ALL ABOUT FAT

Facts about Fats
Is fat essential?
Why too much fat is harmful?
Western Diseases
Different kinds of fats - saturated and unsaturated
Animal
or vegetable fats?
Which Fat
Cholesterol
How to lower your Cholesterol Level
Triglycerides
Fish Fats

Facts about Fats

Almost everyone thinks previous generations ate much more fat with breakfasts of fried eggs and roast dinners followed by apple pie and cream. In fact, people in most countries today eat more fat than their predecessors, the major difference being that it is now concealed in fast foods, processed and take-away items.
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Is fat essential?

Babies begin life drinking breast or formula milks in which 50 per cent of the kilojoules come from fat. This is important for a baby’s rapid growth, and, for the first few years of life, dietary fat con­tinues to be an important source of energy. Gradually the need for fat however decreases.

Everyone needs some essential fatty acids. You won’t find these in fatty meats, pastries, chips or most fried foods. Essential fatty acids are in many foods without any obvious fat. Rabbit, turkey, chicken, fish, rolled oats, wheat-germ, egg yolk, nuts, seeds and vegetables are all sources of the essential fatty acids needed by brain and nerve cells and to keep the membranes around all body cells healthy. Many vegetable oils also contain essential fatty acids.
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Why too much fat is harmful?

A high fat diet is linked with excess weight, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure, diabetes, gallstones and some cancers. At 37 kilojoules/gram, fats have more than twice as many kilojoules as protein (17 kJ/g) or carbohydrates (16 kJ/g). Only al­cohol, with 29 kJ/g comes close to fat in kilojoules.

To damn fat further, researchers have now shown that the body preferentially uses carbohydrates for energy and more easily con­verts fats in food into body fat. High levels of body fat then further increase the risks for all the conditions listed above.
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Western Diseases

In countries where the diet is low in fat, there is a very small in­cidence of “Western diseases”. However, when people migrate, they pick up the host country’s pattern of disease. When Japanese people move to the United States, they develop problems associated with a high fat diet such as heart disease, diabetes, gallstones, and cancers of the breast and bowel.

Eating saturated fat can cause the body to make too much cholesterol. This occurs more in some people than in others.

Excess dietary fat also increases the load on the heart so it must pump much harder. This can cause blood pressure to rise. Saturated fats create the greatest risk for high blood pressure. Saturated fats are also a risk fac­tor in maturity-onset diabetes. For gallstones, all fats are a problem. In certain cancers, too much of any kind of fat except for fish fats, and monounsaturated fat present in olive oil - is a potential problem.
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Different kinds of fats - saturated and unsaturated

"Saturated","monounsaturated" and "polyunsaturated" refer to the chemical structure of fats. Foods always contain a mixture of many different fats but one type usually predominates. For example,  margarine which is labeled ‘polyunsaturated’ may have 45 per cent of its fat in the form of polyunsaturated fat, 35 per cent as monounsaturated fat and 20 per cent as saturated fat. Even polyunsaturated margarines thus contribute some saturated fat to the diet - a point that often es­capes notice. 

Some types of fat create more health problems than others. People living in Mediterranean countries eat a lot of olive oil but have long life expectancy with low levels of heart disease and cancer. Traditional Eskimos also had very low levels of heart dis­ease, diabetes or other health problems, even though their diet was high in fat. Their secret lay in fish fats. The high content of saturated fats in a typical diet seems to be responsible for many of our diet-related health problems.
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Animal or vegetable fats?

Saturated fats are not synony­mous with animal fats. Some animal fats, such as those in fish and game meats (like venison) are mainly unsaturated. On the other hand, many vegetable fats, such as those found in chocolate, some margarines, coconut and palm kernel oils are highly saturated fats. When a food product lists ‘vegetable oil’ on its label, the in­gredient is often palm kernel oil -a highly saturated fat.

Some saturated fats affect blood cholesterol more than others. Claims are sometimes made that chocolate contains stearic acid. This is a saturated fat that does not seem to raise cholesterol. However, chocolate is also one of the richest sources of palmitic acid - a saturated fat that does indeed raise blood cholesterol levels.
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Which fat?

There is little doubt that saturated fats are undesirable while the monounsaturated ones are better, as shown by the long, healthy lifespan of those who eat a lot of olive oil. We know less about the polyunsaturated fats as they have been consumed in large quantities only since the 1970s.

Major types of fat in
different foods


Food

Sat fat
g

Mono fat
g

Poly fat
g

Milk, 200 ml glass

5

5

0

Butter, 1 tbsp

10

5

0

Margarine, 1 tbsp

6

8

1

Polyunsaturated margarine,
1 tbsp

2

6

7

Olive oil, 1 tbsp

3

14

2

Sunflower oil, 1 tbsp

3

6

10

Palm kernel oil, 1 tbsp

9

9

2

Coconut oil, 1 tbsp

18

1

0

Dripping, 1 tbsp

9

10

1

Beef, grilled, lean, 150 g  

6

6

1

Chicken breast, cooked, 150 g

1

2

1

Lamb, trimmed, cooked, 150 g

7

5

0

Fish, grilled, 150g

1

1

1


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