Fats and oils are terms that can be used interchangeably:
- Fats are lipids that are solid at room temperature.
- Oils are lipids that are liquid at room temperature.
EFA's (Essential Fatty Acids)
EFA's are defined as fats which the body can not make from other fats but which the body can use to make all other required fats.
There are only TWO essential fatty acids
Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) an Omega-3 fat
Linoleic Acid (LA) an Omega-6 fat
LA in the body is used to produce natural substances that are
- strongly anti-inflammatory (prostoglandins)
- excellent anti-coagulants (prostocyclins).
Both prostoglandins and prostocyclins are regulated by homeostatic (balancing) mechanisms so there is no danger of producing too much of either of them.
N.B. Aspirin blocks the action of COX (cyclo-oxygenase)... an enzyme. This prevents the production of prostoglandins and prostocyclins from LA.
- The dominant fat in the body (including derivatives)
- Responsible for helping oxygen move through cell membranes
- Common in its processed form (heated and chemically extracted)
- Uncommon in it's active form (cold pressed)
N.B. Processed LA (treated with heat and chemicals) has none of the benefits of cold pressed LA.
MDCT (MultiDetector Computed Tomography) and DPA (Digital Pulse Analysis) demonstrate a significant improvement in arterial health (reversal of arterial plaque) when supplementing with cold pressed EFA's. EFA's also have a synergistic effect in cancer treatments.
The most informative site about EFA's is run by Professor Brian Peskin. Due to confusion about what an EFA is he refers to them as Parent Essential Oils (PEO's):
The best way to remember why EFA's are important is:
Parents (PEO's) can create children (derivative oils) but children (derivative oils) can not create parents (PEO's).
1 bottle of Flax seed: 1.5 bottles of Sunflower oil
This gives a ratio of around 1:2.5 (ALA:LA) which is optimal.
Store the oil in the fridge to prevent oxidation and only use cold pressed oils.
A teaspoon a day is sufficient.
N.B. Add -30 % coconut oil and keep in the fridge to protect the polyunsaturates against oxidation. The coconut oil also has other health benefits.
Make an unsaturated oil water soluble:
Add oil to cottage cheese and mix.
The double bonds in the unsaturated oil bond with the sulphur bonds in Cysteine (an Amino Acid which is part of the protein found in cheese). The resultant mixture is water soluble and absorbed by the bowel much better. Dr Johanna Budwig (a German Biochemist came up with that tip.
Fish oils (EPA & DHA)
Adding too much EPA and DHA to the diet can result in abnormally long clotting times (over an hour). Adding ALA to the body produces both EPA and DHA in ratio's the body needs... which is safer.
Krill oil is also high in omega 3's... but it's health giving benefits are due primarily to the astaxanthin (a strong anti-oxidant).
Know Your Fats
A distinct lack of knowledge about fats exists: Mary Enig a nutritionist is an excellent source of information. Her book "Know Your Fats" is considered the fat bible. Mary Enig argues that saturated fats have been unfairly vilified as causing heart disease. The basis of her argument is that saturated fats do not oxidise... and oxidised fat is the basis of arterial plaque i.e. The only fats that can oxidse are those with double bonds ie. mono and poly-unsaturated fats.
For more info:
NB. Weston Price was a dentist who documented the link between diet and health. His work was meticulous and extensive.
These fats are commonly thought of as animal fats. However both coconut and palm oil (vegetable oils) are saturated fats. Cultures with diets high in these traditional oils did not have high levels of heart disease. Saturated fats have 4 single bonds on each carbon (2 hydrogens on each carbon):
Palm oil has 13x as much beta carotene (Vitamin A precursor) as a carrot and all 8 types of vitamin E in it (we now recognise the effect of different types of VitE is synergistic). Research shows it drops LDL (bad cholesterol) while raising HDL (good cholesterol):
Coconut is high in lauric acid (shown above) which is processed in the body to produce mono-laurin an anti-viral. Lauric acid is found in breast milk and is part of the protection offered to infants until their immune systems are capable of working properly (at about 18 months). Research shows coconut is a healthy oil:
Mary Newport MD has shown you can reverse alzheimers and improve cholesterol with coconut (or Medium Chain Triglycerides):
Butter is a good alternative to margerine because it doesn't contain any dangerous trans fats and includes vitamins and minerals:Saturated fats are much more stable for high temperature use than mono or poly-unsaturated fats. This is because saturated fats have no double bonds and double bonds are the points where oxidation occurs.
Saturated fats are highly heat stable thus they are ideal for high temperature cooking.
Unsaturated fats (mono/poly)
Mono (one double bond) and poly (many double bonds) unsaturated oils are prone to oxidation because of their double bonds (these are the reactive part of the oil). This is why they should not be used in high temperature cooking.
- Cold pressed unsaturated oils of all types contain large amounts of anti-oxidants, fat soluble vitamins and phospholipids. These are healthy oils.
- Processed unsaturated oils have lost most of their protective anti-oxidants, vitamins and phospholipids. These oils thus lack health benefits and contribute to health problems like heart disease.
This difference between processed and cold pressed unsaturated oils helps explain why the health literature can be so confusing. Cold pressed oils are definitely associated with health benefits. Processed oils or oils that are heated lose most of these health benefits and thus are poorly associated with good health.
Unsaturated fats have a double bond and both hydrogens facing up in the "cis" position:
Trans fats are formed from poly and mono-saturated fats. They are created by the process of hydrogenation. Hydrogenation takes an unsaturated fat and makes it into a saturated fat by adding hydrogen. Sometimes the hydrogenation is incomplete and the hydrogens merely change position (from cis to trans). Trans fats have one hydrogen up and one down. This is known as the "trans" position: Fats with hydrogens in the trans position can not be processed properly by the body (they are the wrong shape) and instead make us sick N.B. Trans fats can NOT be formed from saturated fats.
The dangers of trans fats have been well documented for a long time (~1920's): Trans fats cause cancer, heart disease, weight gain, diabetes and other health problems. Despite this they have only been listed on US labels since January 2007. Within six months of starting to label trans fats US states were starting to ban them! Australia does not yet mandate including trans fats on the label.
Trans fats have been a confounding factor in much research... especially as many studies failed to mention that they were used. A common method of creating heart disease in experimental animals is to hydrogenate a saturated fat. Such research has often been cited to show that saturated fat causes heart disease N.B. Natural saturated fats always have an significant unsaturated fatty acid component.