The relationship between saturated fatty acids and cholesterol

Medical importance of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol

In the development of diseases of the heart and blood vessels, otherwise known as cardiovascularproblems, two substances take the center stage. These are: (1) saturated fatty acids, and (2) cholesterol. Their relationship on how they could possiblywreak havoc toyourcardiovascular system will be examined in this article.

Unhealthy alliance between the saturated fatty acids and cholesterol

Biochemically, saturated fatty acids promote the formation of the so-called very lowdensity lipoproteins (VLDLs) which containrelatively more cholesterol, and they are used by the body at slower rate than the bigger lipoproteins [1]. Since theVLDLsare not immediately used by the body, the cholesterol molecules that they are carrying willbe depositedin the peripheral tissues instead, leading eventually to diseases in the heart and blood vessels.

The strongest link between saturated fatty acid and cholesterol has been established by some epidemiological studies wherein it was found out that high intake of saturated fatty acids led to increased level of the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol[2]which is considered as “bad” because it brings and deposits cholesterol in the peripheral tissues, such as the muscles and blood vessels—among other organs.

To avoid the unhealthy effects of saturated fatty acids, therefore, it is recommended that they should be substituted with unsaturated fatty acids in the diet[1]. In Powertec (63), concreteexamples of the different sources of each type of fatty acid were written; all you have to do is to take more of the foods containingunsaturated fatty acids and less of the saturated ones.

It has to be emphasized, however, that total and absolute removal of saturated fatty acids from the diet is not recommended because if that is resorted to, you may experience some forms of chronic diseases which could be due to lack of intake of saturated fatty acids. There are different kinds of saturated fatty acids, and until now there are still questions on how each one contributes to the maintenance of your health. It is unwise, therefore, that you completely remove them from your diet[2].


Recommended apportionment of your food groups

To meet your daily energy and nutritional requirements—and thus reducing your risk of developing chronic deficiency disorders—the National Academies Institute of Medicine recommends the following breakdown of apportioning the different food groups as sources of your energy: 45-65% of your calories must come from carbohydrates, 20-35% from fat, and 10-35% from protein[2].

To give you hint on how you could implement the aforestated recommendation, it is necessary and highly recommended that you undergo blood chemistry examination, complete blood count, and urinalysis. You may consult your medical doctor, and request him to prepare laboratory order for you. Submit this order to any certified medical laboratory so that the tests will be performed. Upon receiving the results, you go back to your medical doctor for his prescriptions and/or advise.

Nutritionally, however, if the level(s) of your cholesterol and/or triglycerides is/are high, then limit your fat intake to 20%, instead of the maximum recommended value of 35%. In addition, as much as possible, that 20% of fat should consist mainly of the unsaturated fats—which could be in the form of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats {Consult Powertec (63)}.

If the level(s) of your cholesterol and/or triglycerides are normal, your blood pressure is normal, and your liver enzymes (SGPT and SGOT) are normal, you can afford to take dietary fat at a maximum level of 35%.To help you prepare your diet, you can consult a certified nutritionist-dietitian. He/she can help you select the proper kind and quantity of foods that you need to take to meet the 20% or 35% of fat in your diet.



  1. Murray, Robert K., Daryl K. Granner, Peter A. Mayes, and Victor W. Rodwell. Harper’s Biochemistry. Appleton and Lange: Stamford, Connecticut, 2000.
  2. Bruce J, Dillard, CJ. Saturated fats: what dietary intake? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. September 2004;80(3):550-559.

Nutritional guidelines to prevent heart diseases(Part 2)

Limit your intake of salt

As mentioned and discussed in Powertec 152, increased intake of salt during yourelderly life may increase your blood pressure (hypertension) because your kidneys could not eliminate as much salt as they used to be from your body. When you start to experienceit and it remains unchecked and untreated for several number of years, your heart enlarges, and you have what is called in medicine as cardiomegaly. When you have this medical condition and still you refuse to take the necessary medications or fail to take them, your heart will eventually fail, and you have the condition medically known as heart failure. You may die from it.

It is clear from the preceding section that too much intake of salt from your diet could lead to a heart disease; therefore, immediately after knowing that you cannot afford to take excess salt, you need to exert extra caution and effort in determining which food(s) to take and not to take.

Increase your intake of foods rich in fiber

Beneficial effects

Dietary fibers are substances present in foods which are not digested in your gastrointestinal tract (GIT). This means that they stay in, and pass through, your GIT without being digested and transformed into another substance. They remain as they are, without contributing any substance, vitamins, or minerals to your body. However, they have the following important functions:(1) they increase the bulk of your stool, leading to promotion of your bowel movement, and thus preventing constipation and colon cancer, (2) prevent the absorption of cholesterol, which is incriminated as one of the causes of diseases in your heart and blood vessels[1], and (3) lower the total food calories that you will take each daycausing you to lose weight and have lower blood glucose.

Since the fibers remain undigested in your GIT, they form greater portion of your stool; since your GIT is sensitive to the volume of your stool, the bulkier your stool is, the more your GIT will contract, and your stool will be finally squeezed out into the outside. Hence, if you have on and off constipation, taking adequate amount of fibers daily will help you overcome it. When you have regular bowel movement, the time contact between your stool and the inner lining of your intestine is shortened. With this, the chance that your food—which could be an unhealthy food—willinduce the start of cancer in your intestine will be lessened. Hence, you will be protected from it. In addition to your protection from constipation and cancer, fibers will help you avoid being overweight and having high blood glucose. These take place because more fibers in the diet will make you feel full from the food that you have been eating sooner than when there are no adequate fibers.As a result, you will eat less than when your diet is fiber-free.

Types of fibers

Although dietary fibers could not be digested, some of them could be dissolved in water, while others remain undissolved. Hence, there are two types of fibers: (1) water-soluble, and (2) water-insoluble. Examples of each type are listed in Table 1 below:

Food sources of dietary fibers                             (End of a series of 2)


  1. Roth, Ruth A. Nutrition and Diet Therapy. Singapore: Delmar Learning, 2007.

Nutritional guidelines to prevent heart diseases(Part 1)

Eat foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol

The quantity and quality of foods that you take play a great role in the development of medical problems, such as heart diseases, andit has been established in several researches that foods rich in fatsand cholesterol are notorious and paramount in doing so. However, only the saturated fatshave been found to contribute in the development of heart diseases—and not all forms of fats. The so-called unsaturated, consisting mainly of themonounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are not incriminated as possible causes of the said diseases; therefore, they can be taken in moderate amounts.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance (lipid) which is either produced in the body or taken from foods. Biochemically, they can be formed in your body from saturated fats that you have previously taken in. This is the reason why you are often advised to limit your intake of red meat, such as beef, pork, and lamb, because they contain a lot of saturated fats. Another way of having increased cholesterol in your body is taking a lot of foods rich in it, such as quail and chicken eggs, animal-derived cooking oil, cookies and butter, and many more.

To help you avoid taking foods rich in saturated fat and cholesterol, every time you buy a packed food from a supermarket or a store, always look at the “Nutrition Facts”, and find out the saturated fat and cholesterol contents of the food stuff. Select the foods that contain the least amount of saturated fat and cholesterol. Therefore, it is not advisable that you go shopping for foods with very limited time to do it! Allot adequate time for your shopping, especially if your intention is to buy foods for yourself and your family members.

Limit your intake of salt

As you grow older, the capacity of your kidneys to eliminate excess salt that you took in from your diet is decreased. For this reason, you will reach a certain age wherein you retain unwanted salt because your kidneys could not eliminate them. When the concentration of salt in your blood is higher than what is normally needed, water which is normally inside your different cells will now enter your blood vessels, and this movement of water will increase your so-called intravascular volume—the blood volume inside your blood vessels—leading to increase in your blood pressure. Thus, when you realize that you cannot afford to take in more salt than what you used to do, limit your salt intake.

There are many ways of avoiding taking in more salt that what you need. Firstly, avoid eating out as much as possible. The reason for this is that you cannot control the amount of salt that is mixed in your meals in the restaurants and other establishments which cater to serving foods to customers, in contrast to what is cooked at home wherein you could instruct your cook to limit the amount of salt admixed in it. Secondly, if you are eating out and find out that the food(s) you ordered is(are) very salty, discontinue taking it (them)! It seems that you would be wasting money when you do it! However, it is good for your health, and it will prevent you from having your blood pressure increased! Thirdly, whenever you buy packed food, always look at the “Nutrition Facts”, and look at the salt or “sodium” content. Select food(s) with the least amount of salt—less than 7% as much as possible. Expect, however, that when you are buying processed food(s), that the salt content is relatively high; thus, as much as possible, resort to buying fresh foods and cook them at home—if needed.

(To be continued)