Fats & Cholesterol
Basic information related to fats & cholesterol are covered here
Saturated & unsaturated fats
Saturated fats are found in animal products and processed foods, such as meats, dairy products, chips, and pastries. The chemical structure of a saturated fat is fully saturated with hydrogen atoms, and does not contain double bonds between carbon atoms. Saturated fats are not heart healthy, since they are most known for raising your Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol).
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are found foods such as nuts, avocados, and olives. They are liquid at room temperature and differ from saturated fats in that their chemical structure contains double bonds. Additionally, studies have shown that unsaturated fats are also heart-healthy fats - they have the ability to lower LDL cholesterol and raise High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ("good" cholesterol).
Difference between unsaturated and saturated fats
Knowing the difference between saturated fats and unsaturated fats, which are two main types of fats found in food, could help lower your cholesterol. While both unsaturated fat and saturated fat are in a variety of foods, studies have found that these fats are not created equally. Unsaturated fats can be beneficial to your heart, whereas saturated fats could be detrimental to your cholesterol and your heart.
So, if you are trying to follow a cholesterol-lowering diet, eating unsaturated fats should not raise your cholesterol levels further. However, you should try to avoid foods high in saturated
What is the difference between mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats?
Unsaturated fats, which have been proven to boost heart health, can be divided into two major categories: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The differences between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lie in their structures. Monounsaturated fats contain one double bond in their structures. On the other hand, polyunsaturated fats contain two or more double bonds in their structure. Replacing saturated fat and trans fats with foods containing mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help to protect you against heart disease. There is more evidence regarding this with polyunsaturated fats than monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats may consist of up to 10% of your daily caloric intake, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program. Polyunsaturated fats can be obtained from foods such as: Nuts, Vegetable oils (corn oil, safflower oil)
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance produced primarily in our liver but also found in the foods we eat. The body makes all the cholesterol we need but what exactly do we need cholesterol for? In fact, cholesterol has several important functions including:
- The formation and maintenance of cell membranes
- The formation of sex hormones
- The production of bile salts that help digest foods
- The production of Vitamin D
What is the amount of cholesterol you need to consume each day?
Although a large amount of cholesterol in your body can be bad for your health, it is still a very important compound in your body. Cholesterol is responsible for a variety of bodily processes.
For instance, cholesterol is an important precursor for sex and steroid hormones. It also provides structural support for every cell in our body, since cholesterol is a key component of cell membranes. Additionally, cholesterol is also needed to make the myelin sheath, which coats our nerve cells. Even though there has been a strong link established between high cholesterol and heart disease, we still need some cholesterol in our bodies.
On average, the liver makes approximately 80 percent of the cholesterol needed to carry out necessary processes in the body, and the rest comes from the diet.
Your daily consumption of cholesterol should not exceed 200 mg a day. However, the liver is capable of making all of the cholesterol needed to meet our daily requirements, so none of it really needs to come from the diet.
As we said previously, fat intake from the foods we eat contribute a great deal to our cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Too much of the wrong kind of fat and you will see a rise in your levels. Here are some hints to control your dietary fat intake.
- Eat the right kind of Fats: It's unrealistic to expect a person to eat no fats at all so the right fats in the proper amounts is the best way to control cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Make sure to eat unsaturated fats; those fats found in plant-based foods. These fats raise your HDL and lower your LDL, of which decreases the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats, from animal-based foods, lower your HDL and raise your LDL, both of which increases your risk of heart disease.
- Eat the right amount of Fats: For healthy adults, no more than 30 percent of your total calories should come from fat. Of the 30 percent (7 to 10 percent of total calories from saturated fats; 10 to 15 percent of total calories from monounsaturated fats; 10 percent from polyunsaturated fats)
- Eat a well-balanced Diet: A healthy diet includes, 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day; more of whole grains, beans, and legumes; limit your intake of sweets and high-fat foods
What are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are the chemical form of most fats in the body and in the food we eat. When we eat, the fats are converted by our body into triglycerides, the form in which the body stores energy for when we need it. When the body needs energy, triglycerides are released and burned as fuel to meet our energy needs.
As part of your routine health check-up, doctor will often perform a blood test that measures the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. For some, the levels are just right. But for many, their diet, the medications they take, or their genetic make-up, causes their levels of cholesterol and triglycerides to be higher than required by the body. Unfortunately, more is not better. In fact, having too much cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood can be a threat to your health. Higher than normal levels of triglycerides and cholesterol have been linked to:
- Heart disease characterized by chest pain and heart attacks
- Peripheral vascular disease (clogged arteries in the legs)
- Stroke as a result of clogged arteries in the head and neck
- Pancreatitis and lipodystrophy
What factors affect cholesterol levels?
There are many factors that can affect the levels of cholesterol. Some of these factors are out of our control; for example a genetic tendency (a family history) to have high cholesterol levels. But many of the factors are under our control. These include:
- A diet high in fats and/or carbohydrates (sugars)
- A lack of exercise
- Certain medications including those used to treat HIV
Source: Portal Content Team