For most people wanting to lose weight or improve there health, fats are viewed as the enemy, but what is the truth?
Fats are part of the nutrient family called lipids. There are three specific types but triglycerides are the most common type in our diets. These can then be further split into subcategories relating to how they are bonded, but for the purpose of this article think of them as very good fats and very bad fats.
Fats are required for energy, the building blocks for cell membranes, making specific hormones, assimilation of vitamins A, D, E and K, antiviral agents (caprylic acid), anticaries, antiplaque and anti-fungal agents (lauric acid).
The good ones; omega 3’s and certain omega 6’s cannot be synthesised by the human body so are referred to as essential fatty acids. These can enhance you health in various ways: such as lowering blood pressure (Hypertension 1999), lowering bad fats (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004), improving cognitive ability (Framingham Heart Study 2006), lowering risk of dementia (Archives of Neurology 2006), helps prevent diminishing eye sight (British Journal of Ophthalmology 2009), higher IQ scores in children (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009), may inhibit tumor growth in colorectal cancer (Journal of Lipid Research 2008, Lipids 2009) and may slow progression of breast cancer (International Journal of Oncology 2010).
Additionally, eating the right fats can help you lose weight! Yes, eating fat can enhance body fat loss. But how does that work? Well, firstly you have to realise that the fat you eat in your diet wont necessarily become body fat. Secondly, eating good fats helps you feel fuller for longer and assist in controlling blood sugar (Fife 2002). A study gave two groups of women a low fat yogurt and a full fat version for a mid-morning snack. The two groups calories for the rest of the day were evaluated and the research found the full fat yogurt consumers eat significantly less calories (Rolls and Miller 1997).
One of the fats that is extremely beneficial for weight loss is medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Found in coconut and palm kernel oils, MCT’s can increase energy (Fife 2002), raise metabolism (Dulloo 1996), increases calorie burning, decrease food consumption (Rolls 1998), lower body fat mass, and reduce body weight (St-Onge and Jones 2002).
But i thought fats were bad for my health? Professor Willett of Harvard University examined the eating habits of 100,000 over 30 years and found ‘virtually no relationship between the percentage of calories from saturated fat and any important health outcome.’ This was also reinforced by a new study which examined 350,000 subjects for coronary heart disease (CHD) or cardiovascular disease (CVD) and also found no relationship with these diseases and saturated fat intake (Krauss 2010, Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
There are however fats that are have been shown to have negative effects on your health. These include certain omega 6’s and trans fats. Trans fats are man made fats which have now been banned in Denmark, New York and California due to links with CHD, diabetes, sudden cardiac death (Mozaffarian 2010), cell inflammation (Kavanagh 2005), increases in bad cholesterol and lowering of good cholesterol (Katan 2006).
To conclude this short overview, choosing your fats can significantly effect you health and fat loss. On a final note, if fat alone made you fat, then how come the amount of fat people eat in their diets has actually gone down over the past 50 years, with obesity reaching record heights and increasing?