Fat remains the most controversial food category. One view is that “eating fat makes us fat”. The reason for this view is that fat contains more calories per gram of weight than protein or carbohydrates and extra calories cause weight gain. On the surface of it this makes common sense. On the other hand fat is satiating, which means it quells the feeling of hunger. Test it for yourself. Go on a coffee binge drinking Cafe Latte’s made with low fat milk, in all likelihood what will cause us to stop is our head spinning. Doing the same with full fat milk it is more likely that we will stop because we feel bloated, full, and simply can’t drink any more.
It is also likely no more, or even less fat, is consumed drinking the full fat Latte’s; but this can be highly individual.
Another view is that fats, especially saturated fats, cause heart disease. Like cholesterol, excessive fat is associated with heart disease. No informed practitioner could now believe that the amount of consumed cholesterol causes heart disease, cholesterol is a risk indicator not a cause. Fat, especially saturated fat, is also associated with heart disease, but whether or not it is causal of heart disease is now subject serious debate. Boomers Health’s opinion is that after genetics and epigenetics, excess intake of anything (overeating) is the primary factor involved in most age related diseases.
Fat We Eat and Fat We Make
All foods are at least indirect sources of fat. If we eat more energy than we expend the excess energy, even if not from fat, is converted into fat by our liver. Excess protein is converted into sugars and they in turn are converted into saturated fat by the liver. Excess carbohydrates (sugars) are also converted into saturated fat by the liver.
As a society we have experienced fat paranoia for decades. “Fat Free” foods are everywhere. Even natural foods are trimmed of fat. Chicken fillets were offered “skin off” or “skin on”, in many supermarkets only today only “skin off” breasts are available.
The introduction of low fat or no fat foods has occurred over decades in Australia, while at the same time the nation has become fatter. Based on a rudimentary analysis of Australian food data gained from sources like ABARE and WHO up to 2007, and calculating energy values leads us to believe that the primary source of excess fats is probably due to the liver’s conversion of sugars, both added, and naturally occurring, into fat.
Types of Fat
Fats are chains of carbon atoms joined to each other. Carbon atoms have four bonds available, that is up to four other atoms can bond to each carbon atom. In the case of fats one carbon is linked to another to make a chain, this uses two bonds of the four up, one for each Carbon atom either side of any Carbon atom in the chain. The remaining two bonds are taken up Hydrogen Atoms, accept at the ends of the chain where where one end has an extra Hydrogen, and the other a “Hydroxyl” group, don’t worry about what that means. The diagram on the left above is an 18 Carbon fat called Stearic Acid. Notice the 3D diagram of it is straight without kinks.
Mono and Polyunsaturated Fats
A Carbon atom in the chain may not be fully "saturated" with Hydrogen atoms and instead has a "double bond" with its neighboring carbon atom, when a fat is constructed like this it is called an unsaturated fat. If there is one double bond in the chain it is called a Monounsaturated fat, if there is more than one it is called a polyunsaturated fat. Note the middle diagram above is a monounsaturated fat. It also has 18 Carbon atoms. It is called Oleic Acid. Oleic Acid is the major constituent of Olive Oil (About 70%).
It is important to note even though the fats shown above have the same number of Carbon, the double bond changes the shape of the fat. The shape of the fat confers different properties on the fat that provides different functions in our body.
The carbons that have a double bond have each lost one hydrogen atom. In nature the lost hydrogen usually always occurs on a particular side of the carbon atom these are called Cis double bonds. When the hydrogen is lost on the opposite side they are called Trans double bonds, Trans fats can naturally occur in very small quantities in animal fats, in the past high quantities were created in the process of making margarine and shortening. We believe this is no longer the case in Australian product, but we don't know because our laws don't require the level of trans fats to shown on the label. It should be noted that the Trans and Monounsatrurated fat in the diagram above have exactly the same number of hydrogen and carbon atoms, but they have an entirely different shape. Shape matters and the scientific consensus is that Trans fats are harmful and should be avoided, we agree.
OMEGA's - THE ESSENTIAL FATS
As stated earlier if we don't eat fat our body can synthesise what we need. Well that's not quite true, our body needs particular Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats, it cannot synthesise them, we must eat them. They are essential to numerous facets of our health including healthy inflammatory response, brain function, substrates for the manufacture various essential hormones and signalling molecules, to name just some of the functions. It is published and believed that the ratio of 6's to 3's is really important to our health and that the ratio should be three 6's to one of 3's. Some publications say that ancient man had a ration of 1:1, we believe their is no evidence for that. According to the United States USDA SR-21 database the ratio in human breast milk is 7:1 and that of cows milk is 1.6:1. It is published that the amount of Omega 3's consumed in the first six months of life affects the memory skills of our brains for the rest of our lives. It would seem that our western diets provide us with adequate amounts of Omega 3, but that we eat too much Omega 6 fat, and that the ratio of 6's to 3's in the modern western diet is out of whack and unhealthy. The general advise is to eat more Omega 3's, we think better advice may be to eat less of the Omega 6's. The major source of Omega 6 fats is vegetable oils, we believe vegetable oils including soybean oils should be avoided, they are unhealthy. A separate article on the Omega fats and fish oil supplements will be published in the near future.
The double bonds in polyunsaturated fats are relatively fragile. This means they can be damaged by free radicals, changing the shape and formula of the fat molecule. In the carbohydrate section AGE' molecules are explained. These molecules can result in damage to polyunsaturated fats. The damage to carbon double bonds cannot accrue to saturated fats and only to a limited extent in monounsaturated fats. While it is commonly held that saturated fat is related to heart disease, modern clinical trials are concluding that saturated fat neither increases nor decreases the risk of heart disease. That is it plays a neutral role. On the other hand the polyunsaturated fats (Omega's) are fragile but necessary. The fact is we do not need to eat a lot of these fats. Our advice is that high temperature cooking is best done with natural solid fats, and that oils used in cooking and salads should be high in monounsaturated fats like olive oil for example. Vegetable oils and oils high in polyunsaturated fats should be avoided.
Foods containing high levels of polyunsaturated fats, and sugar are the foods most likely to accelerate the ageing process. These foods are man made foods, they don't occur in nature.