Relationship between the intake of saturated fats and the development of cardiovascular problems

Nature of saturated fats

Saturated fats (SFs) are also known as saturated fatty acids. They are found in meats, coconut, palm oil, palm kernel oil, butter, egg yolks, milk, and milk products (except fat-free) [1] {Consult Powertec 63}.SFs come in different names, and examples are formic, acetic, propionic, butyric, valeric, caproic, caprylic (octanoic), capric (decanoic), lauric, myristic, palmitic, stearic, arachidic, behenic, and lignoceric[2]. Thus, if a food product that you are buying contains one or more of these, then you know that it contains SFs, and the best way to find out the SFsincorporatedin any grocery product is to look at the “Nutrition Facts” wherein the different substances contained in it are listed, including the quantity in terms of percent.

Relationship of saturated fats with cardiovascular diseases

It has been established from researches that if your diet is high in SFs, the level of your low-density lipoprotein(LDL) cholesterol is also high[3]. You should remember that LDL cholesterol is also known as the bad cholesterol, because it carries cholesterol away from yourliver and deposited them to far-away structures, such as the blood vessels. When LDL cholesterol is deposited in the internal lining of the blood vessels, atherosclerosis takes place, and the blood vessels become inelastic, leading to the development of hypertension.

Neutralizing the adverse effects of saturated fats

Substitution of saturated with polyunsaturated fats

One of the ways of counteracting the adverse health effects of SFsis to replace them with the polyunsaturated fats(PFs). If PFs are taken in instead of SFs, the LDL cholesterol decreases, and the ratio of total cholesterol with the high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is known as the good cholesterol, decreases, too [3],           implying that either the total cholesterol decreases, or the HDL cholesterol increases, or both scenario happen. When the LDL cholesterol decreases and the HDL cholesterol increases, the combination is a perfect recipe for the prevention of heart and blood vessel diseases.

PFs are abundantly found in safflower oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, soybeans, tofu, and fish[1]{Consult Powertec 63}. In simpler terms, what you will do is to replace meat with fish, and replace animal-based cooking oil with the ones taken and derived from plants.

 

Avoidance of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates

When carbohydrates are used to replace SFs, it was found out that the level of both the triglycerides (another form of fat) andLDL cholesterol are elevated in the blood while the HDL cholesterol decreases. These consequences are all the more pronounced if the carbohydratesare refined and added with sugar[3]. This is bad for the heart and the blood vessels. Thus, it should be avoided.

Dietary cholesterol should be avoided if significant saturated fats have been in the diet

Based on animal researches, it was determined that if the dietary cholesterol has been increased,   the tendency of saturated fat to increase the LDL cholesterol level in the blood is also increased. This means that working alone, saturated fats increase the LDL cholesterol level in the blood. If the intake of dietary cholesterol is increased, it will aggravate the LDL cholesterol-raising effect of saturated fats. Therefore, as much as possible, the simultaneous intake of significant amount of dietary cholesterol and saturated fats should be avoided [3].

Foods rich in cholesterol are the following: eggs, roast beef, leg lamb (lean), leg lamb (lean and fat), pork chop (lean), chicken leg (fried, meat and skin), crabmeat (canned), salmon (canned), shrimp (canned) [1]. You need to avoid taking these foods if you have been taking a lot of saturated fats.

References:

  1. Roth, Ruth A. Nutrition and Diet Therapy. Singapore: Delmar Learning, 2007.
  2. Murray, Robert K., Daryl K. Granner, Peter A. Mayes, and Victor W. Rodwell. Harper’s Biochemistry. Appleton and Lange: Stamford, Connecticut, 2000.

Siri-Tarino, P., et. al. (2010). Saturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease: modulation by replacement nutrients. http://www.ncibi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc2943062/

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