Fats, Is It Unhealthy?

Various kind of diseases and health complication is said to link with consumption of fat, such as obesity, diabetes, heart problem, and cancer. However, there are also role of fat in our body, such as to transport and helps in the absorption of vitamin A, D, E, and K, which is fat soluble vitamins. Fat also act as insulator to insulate our vital organ and as shock absorber in the body. With all these functions, yet fat still is the culprit for various kind of diseases, is this true? (1,2,3)



History of dietary fat recommendation (4)


The confusion on dietary fat intake, started long ago when nutrition scientist failed to communicate finding of the nutrition studies to the public. Previously based on the classic diet-heart hypothesis, dietary fat was told bad due to two key observations from observational studies and randomized controlled trial.


1) Controlled feeding trials demonstrated that dietary saturated fatty acids and cholesterol raised serum total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
cholesterol (bad cholesterol) level .


2) Dietary fat intake increased serum total cholesterol and LDL level (bad cholesterol) which is the predicted factor for cardiovascular disease.




Current finding on dietary fat intake (4)


Previously, study was very concentrated on the single causal outcome, but nowadays extensive research has identified that there are multiple pathways that mediate the development of cardiovascular diseases, not only total cholesterol intake or LDL level (marker for bad cholesterol and risk for CVD) but as well as other factors such as, smoking, overweight and obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and many more.


Thus, the recommendation on dietary fat intake to people with cardiovascular
disease and for people to prevent cardiovascular disease need to be altered as well.



Types of fat and cholesterol and dietary recommendation to it (4,5,6)


To understand the dietary recommendation to fat and cholesterol intake, first, let’s understand types of fat and cholesterol. There are few types of fat, there are saturated fat which usually consider as ‘bad’ fat, there are ‘good’ fat which further divide into two, which is monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.There are even worse types of fat which called trans-fat.


Saturated fat is the fat, that is in the state of solid in the room temperature. It can increase body weight and LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood. Food source that is high in saturated fat are meat, chicken skin, margarine and dairy product that is high in fat.


As for unsaturated fat, it is consider as ‘good’ fat since it can helps in increasing HDL level (good cholesterol) level, lower LDL (bad cholesterol) Level , lower blood  pressure, and lower the risk of getting cardiovascular diseases. Unsaturated fat can further be divided into two, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Example of monounsaturated fat includes, palm oil, canola oil, olive oil, and cashew nuts. Whilst the example of polyunsaturated oil is corn oil, sunflower oil, and fish oil. For the best result, study suggests mixing 1:1 ratio of these two types of oil, such as 1- part palm oil with 1 part of sunflower oil in the cooking.


Another kind of fat is called trans-fat. Trans fat formed when fat in the liquid form is convert to solid to form such as during the hydrogenation process. Trans-fat or also known as trans-fatty acid is usually found in the processed food, frozen food since it is used to keep the food fresh in the long-time span. Consumption of trans-fat need to be limit, since the consumption is related to the increase in the LDL (bad) cholesterol level, increase risk of cardiovascular disease, and increase risk of certain types of cancer. Food source that contain trans-fat are margarine, fry food using monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat such as sunflower oil, or processed food like ready to eat food, canned food, and pastry.



In conclusion (4,5)


According to study there is no specific standard limit for each types of fat due to various reasons. But in general, World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that fat intake should be in between 20% to 30% of total calories. In Malaysia, this consumption is equivalent to 45g – 67g of fat which is about 3- 5 tablespoon of oil (based on 2000kcal/day).


Thus, as a consumer, it is important to know which type of fat is good for health and which one is not, and to limit the intake of bad fat is very much essential in order to incorporate healthy eating habit into lifestyle.


Among things that can be practiced is, there are many processed food products on the market nowadays such as tempura, finger food for children and many more. Instead of consuming these process foods, the healthier choice is to consume fresh poultry or seafood rather than the processed one.




Another thing to note is that, cooking method again is very crucial in making sure that food is healthy, choose food that is cook using method such as steam, baked, boil and grill. Especially if you are frequently eating outside, since most of food in the restaurant or stall recycle the oil thus by choosing the better cooking method it is opting the healthier choices.


Limit intake of trans fat is very important, apart from processed food, frozen food, food that is high in cholesterol such as mayonnaise, animal internal organs, anchovies head also must be limit as well.



Being mindful about what to put into your body is just as essential as being mindful about what to put into your mind, flourish your body and mind with good nutrients for the healthier life by choosing the healthy fat for your body!