Fat: Is Its Bad Rap Really Warranted?


Fat. We all fear it. We all loathe it, but does it really deserve the bad rap? I say no. First of all, fat has several roles that are absolutely necessary for good health. One of its roles is to serve as insulation. The thinner the layer of fat, the harder it is to control body temperature. In other words, the Olsen twins would become hypothermic popsicles on a chilly day. Honestly. Second of all, fat helps to protect the vital organs. Without an adequate level of fat, organs are liable to shift positions and cause irreparable damage. Also, organs such as the kidneys, the liver, the heart and lungs are more likely to sustain an injury without adequate fat.

Another role of
fat is its ability to provide the energy necessary to keep our hearts beating and our
lungs breathing, our digestive tract working, and our nerves sensing. Approximately
66% of our daily energy expenditure comes from fat. In instances where people eat
too little, fat and muscle is used to keep the brain working. This is bad news since
the body is essentially feasting on its self. Don’t be a cannibal. Even during those
afwul low calorie diets, fat plays a role in “keeping you afloat”. Lastly, fat is also
partly responsible for hormone production, most notably estrogen.

Here’s an
interesting fact concerning fat levels and estrogen production: A heavyset woman
AFTER menopause produces MORE estrogen than a skinny woman BEFORE
menopause. After menopause, fat becomes a woman’s number one source of
estrogen. In cases where women dip beneath the 11% bodyfat minimum for
prolonged periods, they will notice a disruption of the menstrual cycle, even a
complete cessation. All this is due to seriously low fat levels which influence
estrogen levels which then influences bone density. But, not to sound irresponsible,
the obese are 50% more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer due to the
excessive amount of estrogen that accompanies the fat. The goal is to eat a
balanced diet that incorporates fats and not to fear them as if toxic. Skinny does not
necessarily translate as healthy. The American public already knows that being
obese is unhealthy, but many still fail to realize that the supermodel look is almost
equally destructive, if not more so. Anorexia can lead to kidney failure and
permanent heart problems as well as irreversible bone damage, and anemia.

do you still want “zero percent” body fat? I didn’t think so. Now that we know
the various and important roles that fat plays in the body, let’s discuss the different
kinds of dietary fats, which are good, which are bad, and in which foods they can be
found. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. Saturated fats are typically fats
coming from animal origin, such as butter, meat fat, milk fat. It would be wise to
avoid these as best as possible since they can lead to heart disease, atherosclerosis,
and elevated blood cholesterol levels. However, some feel that the culprit of
America’s obesity epidemic and health issues is not saturated fats, but another kind
that’s barely a notch above poison. Of course, if you watch the news, you know that
I’m speaking of trans fat, or trans fatty acid. Trans fat is actually an unsaturated fat
that adopts similar qualities of a saturated fat once the unsaturated fat is
hydrogenated and given an extra hydrogen atom. This then leads to a longer shelf
life for baked good, plus, it’s a cheaper route than for companies to be using butter
or lard, but is in many ways more detrimental to the body than saturated fats.

In a
study conducted by Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the Harvard School of Public
Health’s Department of Nutrition, it was concluded that after having studied 80,000
women that an increased trans fats intake by 2% elevated a woman’s risk of heart
disease by 93 %. The same study also concluded that a 5% increase in saturated fat
only elevated the likelihood of heart disease by 17%. Furthermore, the same study
discovered that those in the 2% trans fat bracket increased their likelihood of type II
diabetes by 39%, while the saturated fat bracket experienced no noticeable increase

Sadly, many foods list hydrogenated oil (trans fat) as an ingredient.
Anything from margarine and shortening, to fast food and salad dressing can have
trans fat in it. Experts agree that less than 10% of daily calories consumed should
come from saturated and trans fats combined. So read the labels and read them

However, not all fats are so detrimental to your health. The good sources of fat
are unsaturated. Unsaturated fats can be grouped into either monounsaturated or
polyunsaturated, depending on the number of chemical bonds. Monounsaturated
fats can be found in avocados, olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oil. Studies have
shown that monounsaturated fats can lower blood levels of tryglycerides, the
chemical form that fat takes in the bloodstream before being stored as fat.

monounsaturated fats have been known to lower chances of breast cancer. So, when
in doubt cook with olive oil or add some sliced avocado to your salads. Another
important kind of fat is of the polyunsaturated variety. Polyunsaturated fats, or
essential fatty acids, can be classified as either Omega-3 fatty acids or Omega-6
fatty acids and are essential because our body can’t produce them naturally, so they
must be a part of our diet. Essential fatty acids are recommended for those suffering
from arthritis, tendinitis, or any other joint problem. Omega -6’s are more
commonplace in the American diet, so it should be slightly less of a concern. It’s
found in all vegetable oils, such as safflower, sunflower, and corn oils, most grains
and beans, as well as eggs and poultry. Unfortunately, vegetable oils are typically of
the partially hydrogenated kind, so try to avoid at all costs in that case. Omega-3’s,
on the other hand, are harder to come by and more important nutritionally.

fatty acids serve as a natural joint and tendon lubricant and can be found primarily
in coldwater fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. However,
omega-3’s can be found in dark leafy vegetables as well as walnuts and buffalo
meat. It is believed by some researchers that another reason we owe a lot of our
maladies, and orthopedic ones in particular, to our poor diet is because of the
imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 consumption. The average American
diet has about a 20:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Ideally, one should
aim for a 1:1 ratio. According to the American Heart Association, one should try to
eat some of the aforementioned coldwater fish twice a week to help ensure that
enough omega-3’s are consumed. Otherwise, fish oil capsules will work fine if fish
is not your favorite.

Does eating fatty foods lead to a fatter frame? While some still believe that
eating fat will beget fat deposits, it is simply not true. However, a gram of fat
provides 9 calories as opposed to the 4.1 and 4.3 calories of protein and
carbohydrates. So, it’s not the fat but the calories IN the fat that can tack on the
pounds. Healthy ranges for daily fat(both good and bad kinds) intake typically fall
anywhere between a low number of 15% of total calories to 30%, depending on
where you get your information. For instance, the World Health Organization
advocates a daily fat consumption of no less than 15%, but no greater than 30%,
while the American Dietetic Association advocates for something around the
25-30% range. However, there are some cultures, like the Inuit (“Eskimos”) that
consume no LESS than 98% of their daily calories from animal fat and meat, but are
healthier than many Americans. How can that be, you might ask. As mentioned
earlier, researchers believe that their omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is approximately
1:1, and, as a result, they have extremely low rates of heart attack and low rates of
other inflammatory diseases, such as asthma, arthritis, and psoriasis. Furthermore,
type II diabetes, strokes, and cancer are nearly nonexistent in isolated Inuit
communities. But don’t run down to the butcher for some whale blubber just yet.

There are some deficiencies with their diet, most notable of which being the Inuit’s
high susceptibility to osteoporosis. But, this was just to prove that eating fat does
not necessarily cause fat storage, which could lead to type II diabetes, heart attacks,
and so on and so forth. In summary, fat’s bad rap is not warranted in some ways
and is warranted in others. I personally believe one is worse off with a diet
consisting of no fats than a diet asking for fat levels higher than most
recommended numbers. But the goal is to find a happy medium somewhere in
between. To me, fit doesn’t mean gaunt and skinny. It means eating right and
exercising several times a week. That’s how one achieves a fit and healthy
appearance. Follow typical nutritional guidelines and you’ll be doing great, but
make sure you choose your fats wisely, for your lhealth depends on it.

Ian Robertson is in the process of becoming a Master Level Personal Trainer through the NFPT. He lives in Nashville,TN with his fiance and trains clients with Basics and Beyond Personal Fitness Professionals ([http://www.gettingfit.com]).

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

Losing weight will keep you healthy and have a long life. Cheer Up!

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