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The Effects of Fatty Foods and Fats - Saturated, Unsaturated, Polyunsaturated and Trans Fats - on the Human Body

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

About Fats

Energy is available to us through what we eat and the foods that we eat are essentially rich in carbohydrates, protein or fats. Protein and carbohydrates provide about 4 calories per gram while fats provide 9 calories per gram.

Besides being a rich source of energy, some other functions that fats carry out in the body are:

  • They help in the absorption and transportation of the fat-soluble vitamins - Vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • They also protect our vital organs from harmful chemicals as fats store these chemicals if they reach harmful levels in the blood. But only till the time they are removed from the body.
  • Fats also have a role to play in the cell membrane and hormone formation.
  • They are necessary for milk production and the healthy growth of a child.
  • They are needed to develop the brain and a healthy nervous system.
  • They protect the body from the vagaries of weather.

Fats can be solid or liquid at room temperatures. All fats are insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents. Fats are composed of fatty acids and glycerol.

Some Foods Rich in Fats

Some Foods Rich in Fats

Types Of Fats

Broadly, fats can be classified into 2 types :

  • Saturated Fats
  • Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats are further subdivided into 3 types :

  • Monounsaturated Fats
  • Polyunsaturated Fats
  • Trans Fats

Trans fats, however, are a product of the hydrogenation of oils and are man-made. For example, margarine contains trans fats.

Classification Of Fats

Fats are classified on the basis of :

  • The length of the fatty acids.
  • Their saturation levels (Carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms).

Classification On The Basis Of The Length Of The Fatty Acids

Fats have been classified into 4 types on this basis :

  • Short Chain Fatty Acids - With a chain length of 4 to 6 carbon atoms.
  • Medium Chain Fatty Acids - With a chain length of 8 to 12 carbon atoms.
  • Long-Chain Fatty Acids - With a chain length of 14 to 18 carbon atoms.
  • Very Long-Chain Fatty Acids - With a chain length of 20 to 24 carbon atoms.

Short Chain Fatty Acids

These fats are saturated and antimicrobial. They do not need bile salts for digestion and are directly absorbed to provide energy fast. Thus these fats are not stored and hence do not increase weight. They also benefit the immune system.

Medium Chain Fatty Acids

These are also microbial in action, absorbed directly to give energy fast and thus not stored as fat. They increase the metabolism rate and hence contribute to weight loss. They too benefit the immune system.
They are found in tropical oils like coconut oil and butterfat.

Long Chain Fatty Acids

These can be saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. They are difficult to digest and thus are more strenuous on the liver and the digestive system. They need specific digestive enzymes for easier digestion. They are stored as fat and deposit on the arteries as cholesterol.

Most common seed oils and vegetable oils are long-chain fatty acids.

For example :

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  • Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid found in beef and mutton tallow.
  • Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil.
  • Palmitoleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid found in animal fats.
  • Gamma linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid found mostly in plant oils like black currant oil, primrose oil etc.

Very Long Chain Fatty Acids

These fats are highly unstable as they are highly unsaturated. Some people can make these fatty acids from the essential fatty acids they consume but some cannot. Those whose body cannot have to obtain it from animal organs, egg yolks, butter and fish oils.

Some of these fatty acids are needed for the production of prostaglandins(hormones) and some play a role in maintaining healthy nerves and a healthy nervous system.

Classification Of Fats On The Basis Of Saturation

On the basis of their degree of saturation with hydrogen atoms, fats are classified as:

  1. Saturated fats
  2. Monounsaturated fats
  3. Polyunsaturated fats

These are explained below.

1. Saturated Fats

These fats have all the carbon atoms attached to the hydrogen atoms. For this reason, saturated fats remain very stable on heating and do not go rancid easily. They are mostly solid at normal temperatures. Animal fats are saturated and so are some tropical oils like coconut and palm oil. These oils can be used to cook at high temperatures due to their stability.

All oils and fats from animal or vegetable sources are a combination of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated acids.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Rich in Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Rich in Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids

2. Monounsaturated Fats

The monounsaturated fats are short of just 2 hydrogen atoms and have 1 double bond. Monounsaturated fatty acids are made by the body from saturated fatty acids as they are needed by the body.

They are liquid at normal temperature and are stable so they do not oxidise or turn rancid easily. Therefore they can be used in cooking but not at high temperatures or for frying. Olive oil is best eaten as cold salad oil.

Our main consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids is in the form of oleic acid and this is found in olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, almond oil, peanut oil, cashews, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, peanut butter, avocado.

Interestingly, almost 50% of fat in beef is monounsaturated.

Margarine in a tub. It is rich in polyunsaturated fats

Margarine in a tub. It is rich in polyunsaturated fats

3. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

The polyunsaturated fatty acids are short of 4 or more hydrogen atoms. Thus there are 2 or more pairs of double bonds.

The linoleic acids, Omega-6 and Omega-3 are the two essential polyunsaturated fatty acids that the body does not make and thus these have to come from our food. They remain liquid even under refrigeration. They are extremely unstable and turn rancid very fast. For this very reason, polyunsaturated oils should not be heated or used in cooking.

Examples of high polyunsaturated oils are corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, seafood and margarine.

Evidence indicates that excess consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids, increase the risk of cancer. Also, commercial oils containing a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids, have a much higher proportion of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids as opposed to the ideal 1:1 ratio between the two. This disparity in the ratio can contribute to arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.

Why Polyunsaturated Fats Are Harmful?

We have been led to believe that polyunsaturated fats and oils are good while saturated fats are bad. This is incorrect as can be reasoned below.

It has been found that excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils is the cause of the increase in heart disease and cancer, damage to organs like the liver, lungs etc, digestive problems, issues with the immunity system, lack of proper growth and increased weight gain.

The reason for this is not difficult to see. The polyunsaturated fats are unstable and oxidize readily when heated in the presence of moisture and oxygen as during the process of cooking or processing. Oxidation creates free radicals and they react with the cell membranes, red blood cells, tissues, blood vessels, organs etc, in fact with everything in the body giving rise to various diseases and conditions like plaque development in the blood vessels, tumours in organs, cancer, heart disease, etc.

As most polyunsaturated fats are in the form of Omega 6 linoleic acid with a little Omega 3 linoleic acid this creates an excess of Omega 6 and thus an imbalance in the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. This increases the risk of developing blood clots, high BP, inflammations, deficient immune response, cancer etc.

Most vegetable oils in the market are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids but are overly concentrated in the Omega-6 fatty acids upsetting the critical Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio.

Deficiency of Omega-3 leads to conditions like asthma, heart diseases etc. Omega-3 is needed for many cell functions and hormones' production.

Saturated Fats-They Are Good

Benefits Of Saturated Fats

  • Saturated fatty acids are needed for the formation of cell membranes as they provide the necessary rigidness.
  • They protect the liver from toxins and alcohol. They also lower the levels of Lipoprotein A, a substance whose increased levels in the blood makes on more at risk for heart disease and strokes.
  • They are needed to fully absorb calcium for optimum bone health. A minimum of 50% of the dietary fats should be saturated for this.
  • They improve the immune system.
  • Essential fatty acids can be fully utilized only in the presence of saturated fats.
  • The microbial activity of these short and medium-chain fatty acids in the digestive tract protects us.
  • Medium-chain fatty acids, those found in saturated fats, like stearic and palmitic acid are beneficial for the body in times of stress.

Research indicates that of the artery-clogging fats, only 26% are saturated. The rest is unsaturated with more than 50% being polyunsaturated.

Coconut oil which is a tropical vegetable oil has a very high percentage of saturated fats - over 90%. Read my hub on Benefits of coconuts at the link provided below.

Coconut Oil - The Healthy Saturated Fat

Coconut Oil: Is Coconut Oil Good For You? – Dr.Berg Discusses The Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil

These Processed Foods Contain Trans Fat

These Processed Foods Contain Trans Fat

Trans Fats

Trans fat is a man-made fat that is produced when vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated by passing hydrogen gas under pressure through the vegetable oil in the presence of a catalyst like nickel or platinum for some hours.

Hydrogenation makes the oils solid, improves the shelf life, the look, feel and texture of a product. However, during this process, the natural components are converted into many different compounds. These are trans fatty acids or trans fat.

Trans fat is found in margarine, shortening, fried foods, bakery stuff etc.

Harmful Effects Of Trans Fat

  • They increase LDL or bad cholesterol. and lower HDL or good cholesterol.
  • They clog the arteries, cause diabetes and increase the risk of heart disease.
  • They affect the immune system negatively.
  • They give rise to reproductive problems.
  • They cause obesity.

Tip To Find Out How Much Trans Fat Exists In a Food

If the product label has shortening or partially hydrogenated oil as listed as ingredients, you can assume it contains trans fat. The higher up this ingredient is in the list, more is the trans fat.

How To Find Out How Much Trans Fat Is In A Product

Make a sum total of all the different amounts of fat like saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated provided in the list on the product label. Then read the total fat content. The difference between the two is mostly trans fat which is all the more correct if partially hydrogenated oil is listed in the top few ingredients.

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Did you know saturated fat was good for health?
    • yes
    • no
  2. Did you know coconut oil was good for health?
    • yes
    • no
  3. Have you been motivated enough to eat healthy fats in moderation?
    • yes
    • no

Answer Key

  1. yes
  2. yes
  3. yes


This researched information is for educational purposes only. You are advised to take the advice and opinion of your health practitioner or medical doctor before you embark on any new health regime.

Some of my other hubs on Health Topics

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Rajan Singh Jolly

Comments

turtle Man on February 28, 2013:

Crazy!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 02, 2012:

Moonlake, If one knows about what is good to eat and what isn't it becomes easier to follow it. Maybe armed with your knowledge you can do better. A little leeway once in a while shouldn't hurt much if taken in moderation.

Thanks for giving the hub a read and I appreciate your vote.

moonlake from America on August 02, 2012:

Great hub. When I was young I had two heart attacks. I have been through all the classes the hospital has on what I should eat for the good of my heart. I know much of it has changed through the years. Your hub is a great help and reminder on what fats are good and not so good for us. I don't always eat the way I should but I try my best....Voted up.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 07, 2012:

Hi Pamela. Nice to know you found the information useful. Coconut oil especially the Extra virgin one is the healthiest oil. BTW, I have a hub on the health benefits of coconuts too.

Thank you for reading and appreciating it. Thanks also for the compliments. Readers such as you have a big hand in my accomplishments.

Pamela Dapples from Arizona. on July 07, 2012:

Thanks for a whole lot of great information in one handy place. I read some of it twice. You have it very well laid out, so I hope I can remember some of the essential points which will do me a lot of good. The coconut oil for sure -- I want to find some of that.

And congratulations on your hubs being read 100,000 times.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 17, 2012:

Crazed Novelist, Thanks for reading and appreciating. I'm glad you found things of interest.

AE Williams from Atlanta, GA on June 16, 2012:

Well executed article. Learned some things I did not know and relearned some things I already did know. :)

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 15, 2012:

DOM, you and Angela have literally floored me with your comments. An appreciation from a woman of medicine is well ...I'm very honored!

Thank you for reading, voting, bookmarking and sharing. Very much appreciated.

Mel Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on June 15, 2012:

I agree with Angela, this is a PHENOMENAL hub. Very well done Rajan. I even bookmarked it for future reference. Voted up, and shared!!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 15, 2012:

Thanks for the compliments Angela. It was really tough and took a lot of effort to make it easy for the common reader to understand the whole issue of good and bad fats.

Thanks for appreciating the effort and sharing it all over. I'm honored.

Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 15, 2012:

Rajan: You out did yourself on this hub! What you could have done better is nothing! I will share this on facebook, twitter, google+ and with hub followers!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 04, 2012:

jpcmc, you are a lucky man! Were it not for the women in our life we would be lost.

Appreciate your read and comments.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on June 04, 2012:

My wife is a huge help when it comes to eating healthier. Although I still manage to sneak some unhealthy foods down my throat from time to time.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 04, 2012:

dona, thanks for liking and commenting. And the vote too.

Tanuka Bhattacharjee from Cupertino on June 04, 2012:

A great deal of useful information presented together.......A very good presentation. Voted up.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 04, 2012:

I agree fat filled foods do taste better but that's because we have developed a taste to such foods. Changing foods habits cannot be overnight. But with perseverance one can do it.

Thanks jpcmc. Glad you stopped by.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on June 04, 2012:

Nice fat hub. We learned this back in high school but the allure of deep-fried fast food took over. It's nice to be reminded every now and then. :)

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 28, 2012:

Thanks for the compliments, Marisa. I'm glad you liked it. Great to see you. Thanks.

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on May 28, 2012:

Excellent source of information Rajan. This is impressive, comprehensive and very useful. Thank you very much for publishing this.

voted up and shared

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 28, 2012:

Mike, if only we forego our preference for some foods that are very unhealthy we would be doing a great benefit to our body by way of better health. This hub is just a small effort in that direction.

I'm glad you found it useful and informative. Thanks for all the votes and shares. Your comments and visit are much appreciated.

Mike Pugh from New York City on May 27, 2012:

This hub is sensational at teaching the benefits of Fats and the health hazards as well, I learned a great deal here Rajan, and I will be surely sharing this hub with folks elsewhere.

Your knowledge on such a subject as fat is well defined & full of useful information, now I know more about what type of fats to be aware of, and those to stay away from like trans fats, which me and my wife have been doing for about 6 months now.

Thanks for sharing this hub with us, it is something that many people hardly know about or fully comprehend today. Especially many America people who love fast foods which are all mostly full of trans fats.

Voted up and out! Bookmarked, facebooked, twitted and pinned as well.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 27, 2012:

Vellur, thanks for reading and I'm glad you liked it and will find it it useful.

Thanks for voting it too.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 27, 2012:

Interesting and useful. Your explanation is clear and will help me make the right choice of products. Thank you. Voted up.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 26, 2012:

Aurelio, our ancestors probably had not developed a taste for a lot of fatty foods that we are used to now. This is the cause of the present day ill. Sensible eating habits will still save the day for us.

Thanks forgiving the hub a read and votes.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on May 26, 2012:

Your hubs on food and health are always so comprehensive, Rajan. Fats used to be so difficult for our ancestors to get -- that's why we crave. Now, of course, there's too much of it everywhere. Voting this Up and Interesting.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 25, 2012:

Prasetio, I'm glad you found this interesting as well as informational. Thanks for reading and appreciating. You too have a wonderful weekend,my friend.,

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on May 25, 2012:

Very useful information. I learn many things from this hub related with fat. Thanks for writing and share with us. Rated up and have a nice weekend!

Prasetio

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 25, 2012:

Thanks so much, Audrey. Thanks for sharing it too. I appreciate your taking a look in and flooding me with such nice compliments.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on May 25, 2012:

You have presented an outstanding presentation on the effects of fats. Complete and interesting. The video is informative and helpful.A great job rajan and I will share this. Your hubs are fascinating!

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on May 25, 2012:

Yes, you have, Rajan! I like that!

Dhanyavaad!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 25, 2012:

Docmo, well I'm glad it has come out simplified. That in essence was my aim foremost, coupled with info on an issue which has troubled most of us, including me.

Thanks for showering all the appreciation. I'm thankful for your visit and comments. Thanks for the follow. I'm following you too.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 25, 2012:

Thanks for the votes and appreciation. Mahalo for reading, my friend. Have I used the right Hawaiian word?

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on May 25, 2012:

Rajan, you da man! Thanks once again for tapping into our collective conscience regarding the wisdom of eating nutritiously. I love your work!

Multiple votes, my man!

Mohan Kumar from UK on May 25, 2012:

Rajan, this is very comprehensive and clear. You have taken the mystery out of all those complex terminology and made it very user friendly with a lot of helpful advice and clarity. It is also useful for people who think all fat is bad fat I am glad your hub clears this misconception. Voted up and awesome, my friend.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 25, 2012:

Victoria thanks for reading. I have the coconut hub link put in here as well as it is so heavy on healthy saturated fats. Thanks for all the appreciation and votes.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on May 25, 2012:

Wow! I think you covered everything related to fats. This is great information. I will have to read more about coconut oil as I had heard about the health benefits before. Great hub. Many votes!

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