Lipids : We start from the beginning

Fat. It can be a delicious contribution to your plate but when it comes to our bodies, we’d rather steer clear. Summer is in sight so the race is on for everyone to rid themselves of the extra fat. But before any of us begins working towards that summer physique, we should ask ourselves if eliminating fat is really an ideal method.

A LITTLE DEFINITION ?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA) fats are one of three primary macronutrients, including proteins and carbohydrates, that provide our bodies with vital energy.

DID YOU KNOW THAT ?

Fat is mainly found in the form of triglycerides (see below). During digestion, triglycerides are cut into fatty acids which are used for:
Metabolism, as an energy source, catabolism, anabolism, and more.

More complex lipids include:

– Phospholipids, which make up the cell membranes.
– Triglycerides, which constitute adipose tissue more commonly known as body fat.

SATURATED OR UNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS ?

This is a classification of fatty acids according to their chemical structure.

Unsaturated fatty acids are known as “good fats” that protect against cardiovascular disease:

Omega 3: salmon, tuna, sardines, walnuts, rapeseed oil…
Omega 9: olive oil, avocados…

Saturated fatty acids have a bad reputation as they tend to associate with issues like cardiovascular disease. They can be found in items like butter, fresh cream, coconut oil and palm oil to name a few..

However, saturated fatty acids aren’t all bad. They can be ideal for cooking as they are heat-resistant unlike their unsaturated counterparts. For example, olive oil is an excellent contribution to salads while coconut oil works quite well in a pan. However, I do not recommend cooking with butter.

WHERE DID MY FAT COME FROM ?

We often hear the phrase “you are what you eat”. This can lead to confusion when it comes to fat consumption. Generally speaking, no we are not in fact what we eat, but what we eat does have a great affect on how we look and feel. More oftent than not, it’s the love handles and extra curves that bother most people. This fat accumulation is a direct result of triglycerides.

Triglycerides are made from fatty acids. Our bodies extract these fatty acids from food and our bodies even synthesize it from sugar! Most body fat is derived from the storage of glucose (sugar) as triglycerides. In simple terms, the fat that we eat does not magically settle on our stomach. Instead, it is processed by our bodies and becomes a part of us.

IN CONCLUSION,

Overall, it’s important to note that fats are an extremely important part of your diet in that they comprise of many structural and metabolic roles. It’s the surplus that we need to keep an eye out for as the unneeded fat is simply stored for future use. Glucose, which is a vital source of energy, tends to be stored in muscle tissue and the liver in order to replenish glycogen stocks. But the storage capacity in these areas is very limited. Any excess glucose will be stored directly in fat tissue, which has a near infinite capacity, as triglycerides. Such occasions in which this capacity is reached is when an individual has reached the stages of morbid obesity.

WHAT SHOULD I REMEMBER ?

Don’t be afraid of fats as they are an essential part of every diet! Simply eating fats doesn’t mean you will get fat! However, it’s important to know the type of fat your eating. Unsaturated fatty acids, for example, help protect against cardiovascular disease and should be encouraged in moderation. Most things are okay in moderation so there’s no need to entirely banish saturated fatty acids or sugar either. Simply put, it’s all about finding the balance. We’ll cover this topic in a future article so stay subscribed!

Marie Giacchetti, Nutrition and Sport Consultant.
Source: Anses, lipids

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