Dietary Fat

Humans and Fat

Dietary fat has gotten a bad rap in recent human history.  It has been villainized by the media, regulating bodies and nutrition scientists alike.  I find this misconception to be very dangerous and even deadly.  Many types fats, also known as lipids, are integral to the structure and function of the human body.  Your brain is 60% fat, every single cell in your body is encased by phospholipids which contain fatty acids and the base structure of many of you body's hormones are lipids. 

There are two main types of fats; saturated fats and unsaturated fats.  Unsaturated fats come in two different forms as well; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.  Saturated fat is solid at room temperature and has been deemed as a “bad” fat, while unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature and is believed to be a “good” fat.  Saturated fats are often of animal origin and unsaturated fats of plant origin.  Think about butter and coconut oil, they are solid at room temperature, these are saturated fats.  Olive oil and sesame oil are liquid at room temperature, they are unsaturated fats.  In truth, most fat that we find in our food is a combination of both, but the predominant type of fat will dictate the state of the fat at room temperature.

Many people head to the grocery store with their heads swimming about “good” fats and “bad” fats.  You hear that you are supposed to avoid butter but take fish oil as a supplement; eat Coconut Oil or avoid it depending on the source of information, it is a saturated fat after all; eat eggs because cholesterol is good or avoid eggs because cholesterol causes heart disease.  While cholesterol is more of a wax than a fat, it is essential for your body.  About 25% of the cholesterol in your body is found in your brain.  All of your sex and stress hormones are built around cholesterol.  This nutrient is essential to proper reproduction and brain function.

My personal opinion, based on copious amounts of research and personal experience, is that fats are great for us.  Both saturated and unsaturated fats provide some benefit to the human body.

Supplementing with Oils

If you are going to take any one fat as a supplement, I would take Cod Liver Oil.  Not only is it high in EPA and DHA, but it also is high in Vitamin D and Vitamin A, two very important fat soluble vitamins.  

DHA & EPA are two fatty acids that are important because they are precursors to many hormones and are incorporated into your cell walls.  DHA is very important in the transmission of nerve signals between cells and EPA is a precursor to prostaglandins, molecules that modulate pain and inflammation.  This is how these nutrients help to calm inflammation and hence pain.

Krill Oil is a high source of DHA.  This supplement is considered great for the environmentally conscious as Krill are a sustainable source of DHA.   

Coconut Oil contains a fatty acid known as lauric acid which can actually kill microbes in the gut.  Lauric acid can also be broken down easily into kentones which the brain can use as fuel source instead of glucose.  This is a great option for people who are sensitive to sugar and are trying to eat a low carb diet. Ketones are the only other molecule besides glucose that the brain can use as fuel. 

Omega 3,6,9 is another supplement you will see on store shelves.  These are all unsaturated fats and are often sourced from olive oil, borage oil and fish oil.  The 3, 6 and 9 are referencing the carbon where the first point of unsaturation occurs.  These all have different chemical structures that have different functions in the body.

What to Eat

Some fats do in fact increase inflammation in our bodies. A good rule of them to follow in regard to dietary fat is to eat whole foods, avoid fried foods, and minimized processed foods. Unless you are well educated about how different types of fats impact your health, it can be difficult to find fried or packaged foods that contain beneficial fats. 

For example - You will find that a lot of packaged or fried foods use soybean or canola oil. These oils are high in an version of omega six that has been shown to up-regulate inflammation in the body. It does the opposite of what the omega three's do for the inflammation pathways. 

If you focus on eating whole foods such as eggs, wild caught fish, grass fed beef, fruits and vegetables and whole grains, you will be sure to get a better balance of dietary fat that the human body is accustom to.