Good Fats, Bad Fats

Good Fats, Bad Fats

In his book “The Cholesterol Myth”, Dr Robert Buist points out a few salient features on fats.

•  Fats are needed for life

•  Some essential fats produce anti-inflammatory substances which control pain and inflammation

•  Cholesterol is a vital nutrient in the body’s survival and is not implicated in the majority of cases of Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries)

We know that there are unsaturated and saturated fats. What does this mean?

Unsaturated fats are – in the main – essential for the healthy formation of all cell walls, speeding up the unclotting process of blood clot formation, producing health-giving anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. They arise in the organism when it produces the basic unit of the oil, called a fatty acid which then combine with glycerine (a triple alcohol) in a chemical bond known as an ester. These include vegetable oils (such as olive oil) and other plant oils, such a flax-seed (linseed) oil and oils from certain animal species such as fish. Saturated fats also form esters are mainly used for insulation and energy storage and production. These include butter and lard.

It happens that unsaturated fats are susceptible to heat and attack by oxygen – as is indeed the original fatty acid itself. There’s always a catch in biology. The better it is for you, the more that its abuse can harm you. And there’s no greater form of abuse on your unsaturated fats than heat under the presence of oxygen. This lethal combination causes the good (“cis”) fatty acid (FA) to be shunted over to the dark side of biology and form a trans fatty acid – with attitued! The attitude comes from an oxygen molecule splitting up under the same intense heat and then latching on to the Trans FA (so becoming a free radicle). This has the potential to cause tremendous damage to the very healthy cell walls that a “cis” FA will help create.

Trans-Fats and Stomach Cancer

So just what is a good source of a free radical, heat-changed, trans fat? Sadly, any processed food and many (if not all) margarines. That means basically anything sitting on a supermarket shelf in a packet or cooked in oil. Re-heated oils are a particular problem. For example, Japan has the highest incidence of stomach cancer in the world. This is at odds with its general health record, which shows very low incidences of other cancers and indeed the highest life expectancy. So why stomach cancer? I wonder if it’s got anything to do with its rumoured system of four classes of restaurants? In this case, it is my information that a first class restaurant will pass its used oil on to the second class one, who then sells it to the third class restaurant and so on. I can well imagine that re-heating an oil doubles its chances of free radical attack and inducing a trans configuration. So, by using this system of re-using cooking oil, they are basically quadrupling their chance of introducing toxic fats to their diet.