A Tale of Two Fats Part 1

Sometimes folks outright cringe upon hearing the word fat.  Fats tend to frighten people, which is sad days because fats are similar to carbs in the sense that there are good fats, and there are not so great fats. 

There are "good fats" and there are "bad fats".  Which do you eat more of?
There are “good fats” and there are “bad fats”. Which do you eat more of?

Fats are actually very important to get from the diet, as they have extremely essential roles, they are structural components, they make up the walls of cells, and hormones, they also provide insulin for the body, they store energy, they are essential for the absoprtion of our fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), and they are also precursors for important regulatory molecules called prostaglandins. 

Upon paying a visit to the doctor’s office your may have heard your Doc mention your “lipids”, or doing a FLP- a Fasting Lipid Panel.  That because fats are part of a nutrient class called lipids.  The easiest explanation of lipids- lipids are fats that can move all around the body… but they wear a magical protein coat, so that are called lipoproteins.  Some lipids have larger more fabulous protein coats, therefore they are bigger, these are called High Density Lipoproteins, AKA HDL, AKA your “good cholesterol”. 

There are also Low Densisty Lipoproteins (LDL), and Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL).  The lower the density the more “not good” higher concentrations are for you- the lower the density it means there will be more fat versus protein.  VLDLs are extremely low in protein and high specifically in triglycerides, triglycerides are the most common types of dietary fat.

The foods we consume in our diets affect these lipid levels in our blood.  Fats such trans fatty acids and saturated fats tend to elevate our “bad” cholesterol (LDL)- the higher the LDL and lower HDL – these tend to be risk factors for chronic illness- namely cardiovascular diseases. 

If you were to go to your physician and have a lipid panel done, there would be four main results/numbers you would want to know about. 

1) Total Cholesterol

2) HDL Lipid Panel

3) LDL

4) Triglycerides

With my patient’s I aim for the desirable or “optimal levels”, so for total cholesterol, we try to get <200, LDL <100, (however depending on other risk factos, and medical history, some physicians prefer to see LDL <70- LDL being WAY too low can be a risk factor for cancer), with HDL we aim “high” (so I want my patient to work towards 60), and for triglycerides I like to see <150- especially in my Diabetic Patients. 

The saturated and trans fatty acids tend to promote increases in LDL, and triglycerides, and therefore you will also tend to see a high Total Cholesterol. 

Poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids are our “healthier fats”, but have different roles.  Roles that I will cover in part 2 of this blog 🙂 along with the different foods that contain the different fats. 

Keep your eyes peeled for the sequel 🙂

Leave a Reply