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Types of Fat: Benefits and Disadvantages

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The term “fats” groups a group of molecules that have the characteristic of repelling water. They can be fatty acids (triglycerides), cholesterol and phospholipids; in addition, they have a high caloric content regardless of their origin. Because of their chemical structure they can be saturated, unsaturated, or Trans.

Are there beneficial fats for the body?

As is well known, fats represent the body’s second source of energy only behind carbohydrates. However, it must be clear that not all fats we consume have a beneficial effect on the body. Below we show some guidelines to know what types of fats can be eaten more commonly and which are not. Also, we will detail in which foods each type of fat predominates.

Saturated

The saturated ones are of animal origin, solid at room temperature, and high in cholesterol. The cholesterol performs important functions in the body. Among the most important highlights the fact that this molecule provides robustness to the cells of our body, making them more resistant to toxic substances or protecting them against the invasion of viruses or bacteria. On the other hand, when there is an event, in the form of low density or “bad cholesterol”, it is related to cardiovascular diseases.

Unsaturated

Unsaturated fats come from vegetables or animals that live at very low temperatures (blue fish), and because of their low melting point (temperature at which they occur in liquid state) are fluid at room temperature. Depending on their chemical characteristics can be monounsaturated (olive oil, walnuts, avocado), or polyunsaturated (Omega 3, Omega 6).

The monounsaturated fats are used to quickly and reduce low – density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol”. In addition, high levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good cholesterol”, which, as we mentioned earlier, contribute to the removal of cholesterol from the arteries.

Then we have polyunsaturated fats , which contain the already well-  known and publicized Omega 3, contribute to lowering  low density lipoprotein (LDL), although they do not increase high  density lipoprotein (HDL). They intervene in the formation of the cell membrane, and are important in multiple functions in the body. Its consumption has been related to a protective effect on the cardiovascular system.

Trans

Lastly we have Tran’s fats. These are very rare, almost non-existent in nature, and their main origin in food for human consumption is industrial. Its most common presentation is margarine. This fat results from a process in which an oil of vegetable origin is used, unsaturated, and therefore fluid at room temperature, which is bombarded with hydrogen, in order to saturate it. That is, an unsaturated fat is artificially converted into saturated fat, which allows it to be solid at room temperature, and also of vegetable origin.

Numerous epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that Trans fats are related to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes (due to increased insulin resistance), and cancer (especially breast and prostate). These fats, whose molecular structure has been artificially modified to be more rigid, are incorporated into cell membranes by altering their receptors, including those that must bind to insulin.

They are responsible for the increase in total cholesterol, as well as low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, in addition to reducing high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol. To make matters worse, they reduce the size of the LDL molecule, and increase its density (LDLsd). This altered molecule is more likely to form cholesterol plaques in the arteries than its natural counterpart.

They also have a tendency to be deposited in the liver, favoring the appearance of non-alcoholic fatty liver, which is a condition that is related to overweight and insulin resistance. Last, but not  least, recent studies have shown that a diet  rich in trans-fat causes a considerably greater  weight gain than a similar diet with natural fats, especially at the level of the  abdominal circumference.

In other words, when you eat, for example, a cookie containing trans-fat in its preparation, it will contribute to your weight gain much more than the same cookie with natural ingredients, inducing in a special way the increase in abdominal fat. It is important to understand, however, that this disproportion is not due to the caloric content, since all fats contribute 9 calories per gram, regardless of their origin. The difference is based on the way they are processed by the agency, and if they are destined to deposit or other functions.

Tran’s fats: Are they still being used?

In the beginning it was assumed that its vegetable origin implied health benefits with respect to saturated fats, so the substitution of butter by margarine in home and industrial recipes was promoted. However, studies conducted in later years showed that the original conclusion was wrong. On the other hand,  for the industry they represent great benefits, because they are cheap,  malleable, and take longer to become rancid than their natural counterparts,  so they postpone the expiration date of the products that  contain them. They are usually present in industrial bakery: cookies, breads, etc., as well as in “Snacks”, and other processed foods that contain fat in its preparation. They can also be in your refrigerator in the form of margarine.

Currently, there are many products that no longer contain them, and almost always notify the consumer as an additional positive value. Fortunately, there are already many countries that have food regulations that limit them. If this is not the case in your country, the recommendation is to check the labels: they will be under the name of “hydrogenated oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils”, usually of vegetable origin.

We hope that these tips have helped you understand how important it is to recognize each type of fat. In addition, the consumption of the most beneficial will allow you to lose weight in a healthy way, apart from the numerous benefits mentioned above.

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