Friday, August 13, 2010

Rigid, Flexible & "Kinky" Fats

It's summer. For some, the fat has melted away with greater time spent outdoors and active. For some, fat is the perennial foe and fat grams in food get counted like carefully evaluated ounces in a backpack on a long, tiring trek. No matter what size or shape we are, we are inundated with information about fats and getting rid of fat.

Here's the scoop on dietary fats:

  • Dietary fats enable absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
  • Fat provides a major source of metabolic energy.
  • Fat creates healthy cellular membranes, the part of the cell involved in regulating what comes in (nutrients) and what goes out (waste) of a cell. 
  • Fats thus are critical to regulating cellular function, including gene expression, inflammation, and cell growth through a process called "signaling" (the instructions for turning cellular functions "on" and "off").
So, fats are vital to health, with a few caveats: (1) know your fats and (2) understand that fat build up in organs like the liver, heart, and pancreas are far more worrisome than those love handles.

Fat Molecules - A Question of "Flexibility"
  • Saturated fats and Trans fats are considered "rigid" molecules, which makes cellular membranes more rigid and less able to self-regulate (similar to rigidity in we humans!).
  • Mono-Unsaturated and Poly-Unsaturated fats are considered more "flexible" molecules and thus support more fluid cellular communications and self-regulation.
My dear friend and pharmacist, Mike Ciell, talks about trans fats (rigid fats) acting like a "Saran wrap" around cell membranes. Not a nice picture (and another good reason for reading labels and avoiding packaged foods whenever possible). 

Interestingly, unsaturated fats have at least one double bond in their molecular structure, which causes a "kink" in their structure that makes them hard to "stack up" on top of one another. The poly-unsaturated fats have multiple double bonds that make them more "kinky" and thus more fluid, even with refrigeration. Omega 3 DHA molecules have six double bonds thus making them extremely fluid ("super kinky"). 

Funny, and most of you probably thought that flavored massage oils were the only "kinky oils." :-)

If you are interested in a few diagrams (and a further discussion on the evils of trans fats), check out this older-but-still-good little article on the Chemical and Physical Structure of Fatty Acids at SupplementQuality.com by Wyn Snow.

2 comments:

Carol Wright said...

could you comment on the MCT, medium chain triglycerides?

it's the basis for a new Alz. Diet, and it's made from coconut oil...

Mom has used for a few months, and it seemed to help almost immediately. more energy and mental focus. Now worried the thermogenic quality of this oil is what is making her sweat so much...and it doesn't seem to make her any less cold (even though it's sweltering). She is 90.

Lem said...

Polyunsaturated fats play a big role in elevated homocysteine levels. These "new" vegetable oils are wreaking havoc as the traditional fats have been shunned. Natural fatty acids are essential and sugar is also ignored as the great oxidizer, as well. An elevated homocysteine level is inflammatory to the arteries.

Dr. McCully's research into the unhealthy effects of polyunsaturated fats and the elevation of homocysteine in the body is ground breaking and helps explain why heart disease was a much more rare occurrence before processed vegetable oils and the vegetable oil lobby demonized the beneficial aspects of traditional animal fats.

Stay away from these new oils. Use lard and coconut oil for cooking, eat traditional oils such as in olive oil...eat GRASS FED beef. Grain fed beef is unnatural and the Omega-3 fats are unnaturally low.

If the lipid theory of modern medicine were correct, we wouldn't be discussing the horrid problem of heart disease. Thinkm for yourself..come up with something original, 'cause this low fat stuff ain't working.