Are saturated fats including animal fats and cholesterol villains as told by many?

These are not villains but vital factors for the normal growth of almost all of our systems, proper function of central nervous system brain and spinal cord, protection from diseases and optimum energy levels. Do not listen only to the industries and ask always why, to increase not only the awareness but also to know more. This leads to research in the right direction without considering the profit alone.

What are the functions of fats from vegetable and animal sources?

Fats are important for our life and also a concentrated form of energy in the diet. Their main functions are as follows:

• They provide the building materials for cell membranes
• Almost the starting substance to a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances
• Fats slow down the absorption of the nutrients to the blood, thus control the time of feeling without hungry which is useful in weight reduction
• They are necessary for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, such as, vitamin A, D, E and K. They are needed for the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A
• They are necessary for mineral absorption and the list is long

What is the basis of our diet?

Economically, politically or with the brutal strength of lobbyists, correct nutrition is recommended with reduced intake of fats, particularly saturated fats from animal as well as vegetable sources. The best example is coconut and its saturated fats. Animal fat contains cholesterol as well as saturated fats which is enough to make these two villains of the civilized, modern diet.

What is lipid hypothesis?

It was Ancel Keys worked in the late 1950’s who advocated a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the animal food. This is called the theory of the “lipid hypothesis”. Several subsequent studies questioned the data and conclusions but the food processing and vegetable oil industries who are the beneficiaries made this wrong conclusion to live long to make money for decades.

Coconut and coconut oil are plant foods, that means, the campaign against coconut and oil are also wrong, am I correct?

You are great, that is correct. Now they make coconut and coconut oil bad to mint money from some other oils. Millions sacrifice coconut chutney and die in despair that they should not eat it.

What is your advice?

If some medical professionals and dieticians are telling not to eat coconut and coconut products, ask them to give the reasons for that, send it to me and I tell you whether it is correct or not. We collect the data and publish it for the welfare of all. Remember coconut and coconut oil are plant foods and contain no cholesterol. With this argument of saturated fats and cholesterol, people who traditionally eat a lot of coconuts in Kerala, Sri Lanka and Caribbean Islands ate more other plant oils like canola oil, what happened was the increase of heart diseases and more death from heart attack and stroke. Eat in moderate amount because coconut is one of the most nutritive foods available in the world.

There are several studies which are for and against the intake of saturated fats and cholesterol. Take for example, India where much difference exists between North and the South. North Indians eat seventeen times more animal fat than the South Indians, but South Indians have seven times more heart diseases and stroke. What is needed is an individual diet, taking into consideration of several individual factors and every food must be eaten correctly in our life stages when it is necessary. Several examples could be given from different parts of the world, you could give best advice when you have learned, observed, tried, experienced a lot and shared your own experiences with others. What needed is not money, but time which is unfortunately scarce for all. Professionals who could take time for you are worth for their money.

Why is such a difference between South Indians and North Indians?

It is very easy to answer. We, South Indians consume lot of rice or other carbohydrates – tapioca and big Bananas in Kerala including all the chips and snacks made out of rice, potato, banana and other carbohydrate containing foods – are the villains. Excess carbohydrates in the form of sugar in blood are sent to liver where it is converted into triglycerides, the fat in the blood. Excess protein is converted into sugar in the liver which in turn can be converted to triglycerides. Now you know very well how important fat is for our body.

Could you classify different fatty acids?

There are three groups of fatty acids and they are as follows:

• Saturated fatty acids (where all the places in the carbon atom are occupied by hydrogen).

• Monounsaturated fatty acids (where one double bond is present, a reaction with other atoms is always possible).

• Polyunsaturated fatty acids (where two double bonds are present in case of omega-6 fatty acids and three double bonds in the case of omega-3 fatty acids). These are called essential fatty acids because our body cannot produce them and must be taken along with food. These are very reactive because of the double bonds which make them quickly rancid. This rancidity (rancidity = unpleasant taste or foul smell of stake due to the decaying of fat) happens in our body also when lot of environmental poisons and free radicals are present.

Is the chain length useful in classification of fatty acids?

Fatty acids are classified not only according to their degree of saturation but also by their chain length and they are as follows:

Short-chain fatty acids – These have 4 to 6 carbon atoms and mostly present in animal fat, four carbon butyric acid in cow’s butterfat and six carbon capric acid, found in goat’s butterfat.

Medium-chain fatty acids – have 8 to 12 carbon atoms and found mostly in butterfat and the tropical oils.

Long-chain fatty acids - they have 14 to 18 carbon atoms and can be the three fatty acid groups, saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. The two essential 18 chain fatty acids are stearic acid, a saturated fatty acid found in beef and oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, the chief component of olive oil. Gamma linolenic acid is an 18 carbon fatty acid with three double bonds which is produced in our body from omega-6 fatty acids. This is important for the production of prostaglandins, tissue hormones which regulate many processes at the cellular level. Another monounsaturated, 16 carbon palmitoleic acid is found almost exclusively in animal fats.

Very-long-chain fatty acids – They have 20 to 24 carbon atoms and are highly unsaturated with four or five or six double bonds. Animal foods such as organ meats and egg yolk, butter and fish oil contain a lot of these fatty acids. The most important very-long-chain fatty acids are dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid with 20 carbons and three double bonds, arachidonic acid with 20 carbon atoms and four double bonds, eicosapentaenoic acid with 20 carbon atoms and five double bonds and docosahexaenoic acid with 22 carbon atoms and six double bonds. All except docosahexaenoic acid are used in the production of prostaglandins. Arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid play a vital role in the function of the nervous system.

What are the other uses of these fatty acids?

• Short-chain fatty acids have antimicrobial properties and they protect us from viruses, yeasts and pathogenic bacteria in the gut. These are directly absorbed for the quick energy and that is the reason why these are not increasing our weight. They also have their important role for a healthy immune system.

• Medium-chain fatty acids have the same characteristics like the short-chain fatty acids. Remember these are also quickly absorbed directly, these supply also quick energy for the body.

• Palmitoleic acid has strong antimicrobial properties and other long-chain fatty acids are used in the production of prostaglandins.

Which is the main problem of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in our body?

They could be oxidised and become rancid which causes problems to our cell membranes.

Are the saturated fats the source of our modern diseases?

The answer is certainly no. It is so manipulated that the people in Western countries believe it and everybody try to avoid them but many earn out of this.

Could you explain the benefits of saturated fatty acids in detail?

• About 50% of the cell membranes are made of saturated fatty acids and they give the strength and stiffness to it.
• They are necessary for the healthy bones, without which calcium could not be incorporated into the skeletal structure.
• They protect liver from alcohol and other toxins.
• Lipoprotein (a), a substance in the blood which indicates the proneness to heart disease is lowered by saturated fatty acids.
• They are needed for the proper utilization of essential fatty acid; Omega-3 fatty acids are better retained in the tissue when the diet has enough saturated fatty acids.
• The fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated and that is why food rich in saturated fatty acids such as steric and palmitic fatty acids are the good food for the heart. This reserve is utilized by the heart immediately during stress situations.
• Short- and medium-chain fatty acids are strong antimicrobial agents which protect us against harmful micro-organisms in our digestive tract.
• Finally, they support and enhance our immune system.

Do the artery clogs contain saturated fatty acids?

The fat content of the artery clogs are, 26% saturated fatty acids, the rest is unsaturated fatty acids, of which polyunsaturated fatty acids are more than 40%.