Unsaturated Fats And Heart Health

  in  Nutrition
It's common knowledge that obesity and its corollaries diabetes and heart disease are serious issues in the western world and so it's understandable that our diet is under the spotlight and that our fat consumption is under particular scrutiny.

Fats come in different forms
A fair percentage of people are probably aware that there are different kinds of fats and that the two broad groups are saturated and unsaturated fats. Fewer people may actively remember that unsaturated fats can themselves be split into two groups: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Even fewer may be aware of what this actually means in practice. Basically it is a reference to the structure of the fat molecules and how they bond with each other.

The saturated fat debate
For decades, there has been pretty much unanimous consensus in the scientific community that saturated fat was bad for you and that was essentially it. This view dates back to the 1970s, when heart disease transitioned from being a minor problem to being a serious issue. Obviously, this resulted in extensive research into its causes and two discoveries were made. One, people with heart disease tended to have elevated levels of cholesterol. Two, there appeared to be a link between saturated fats and high levels of cholesterol, leading to clogged arteries (and hence pressure on the heart). Putting these two observations together, researchers concluded that saturated fat was a contributor to heart disease, hence its long-standing reputation as an unhealthy component in our diets. Over recent years, however, this thinking has been challenged and this has led to rousing debate.

Pascal Meier, Rita Redberg and Aseem Malhotra, co-authored a paper, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, in spring 2017, in which they stated that saturated fat does not exacerbate the risk of heart disease. They also recommended against relying on products marketed as "low fat" or "proved to lower cholesterol" as a means to guard against heart disease. Instead they recommend that people follow the Mediterranean diet, supplemented with at least four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil or a handful of nuts and incorporate 22 minutes of walking into their daily routine. While their comments have met with a barrage of criticism, they have elicited some more favorable responses and some which have simply commented on the lack of practicality of their suggestion rather than dismissing it as scientifically inaccurate.

The fundamental facts
While this debate is interesting, there is a strong case for arguing that it is effectively a storm in a cup of caffeine-free tea, since scientists are essentially all agreed on the basic fact that the body converts excess calories to fat and that carrying excess fat of any description causes problems for the body, which vary in severity according to the level of obesity. Regardless of whether or not saturated fats are more or less unhealthy than their unsaturated counterparts, the simple reality is that there is a strong correlation between excess fat on the body and both heart disease and diabetes and health a person's lifestyle can heavily influence their likelihood of contacting or indeed both of these serious conditions. It's also fair to say that products which are engineered to be low (or lower) in fat (as opposed to being naturally low fat) may compensate for the lack of fat by adding other unhealthy ingredients such as excessive salt, sugar or chemical additives. Hence, they may still contribute to poor diet.

In short, regardless of where you stand on the saturated fat debate, you want to make sure you eat a healthy, balanced, diet, which includes plenty of fiber, along with fruit and vegetables as well as protein and carbohydrate. Steer as clear as you can of heavily-processed foods and foods which contain high quantities of sugar, salt and fat (of any description) as well as excessive alcohol and caffeine and avoid tobacco completely. Get plenty of sleep and take enough exercise to maintain a healthy weight. If you find yourself reaching for low-quality foods as a way to deal with stress, then look for ways to deal with the stress instead. For example, head to a gym or spa or invest in home appliances such as steam- or hydrotherapy-showers and/or whirlpool baths to create your own health-and-wellness center at home.

Sam Socorro is a guest author from Dailyhealthclick.com. She is a respected and expert voice in a plethora of health related subjects with over 10 years of writing under her belt.