Saturated Fat, Trans-fat and Cardiovascular Disease

Fat is important part of our diet, it is an essential nutrient for our body in order to supply energy. It plays a vital role in maintaining cell functions, metabolism and healthy body.

What is Saturated Fat?

Chemically, Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds between the carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain and are thus fully saturated with hydrogen atoms. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature.

Main Sources of Saturated Fat

Majority of saturated fats are from animal based sources such as red meat and whole-milk dairy products, including cheese, and butter. Whereas, main sources of plant-based saturated fats are coconut oil and coconut milk, palm oil, palm kernel oil and cocoa butter.

Known Health Impact of Eating Excess Saturated Fat

Eating too much saturated fat is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. A diet high in saturated fat causes a soft, waxy substance called cholesterol to build up in the arteries. Not only clog our arteries, they also directly raise total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Unnecessary excessive consumption of saturated fats should be avoided.

What is Trans-fat?

A chemical process that changes vegetable oil into solid fat, by means of artificially packed it with atoms using a process called hydrogenation, making them more saturated. These saturated fats have a higher melting point, which makes them attractive for baking and extends their shelf-life.

Hydrogenated Fats or Trans Fats were once seen as a healthier alternative to saturated fats: using stick margarine was deemed better for you than using butter, yet numerous studies now conclude that trans fats are actually worse. Trans-fats not only increases LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels, they also lowers HDL or "good" cholesterol levels. HDL helps unclog arteries. This eventually increase the risk of Cardiovascular Disease such as Coronary Heart Disease, Heart Attack & etc.

Main Sources of Trans Fat

Trans-fatty acids are found in fried foods from fast-food and other restaurants, packaged snack foods and commercial baked or processed foods such as cookies, crackers, chips donuts, artificial creamers, vegetable shortening, margarines and more...

Trans Fat vs Saturated Fat

1. Saturated fatty acids raise LDL cholesterol as well as HDL cholesterol. But trans fatty acids not only raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, it also lower HDL (good) cholesteral.

2. Saturated fatty acids conserve the good omega-3 fatty acids. Trans fatty acids cause the tissues to lose these omega-3 acids.

3. Saturated fatty acids do not interfere with enzyme functions, whereas trans fatty acids interfere with many enzyme functions.

4. When too much saturated fat is eaten, the body converts it to monounsaturated fat. This does not happen with trans fat.

5. Some saturated fatty acids are used by the body to fight viruses and bacteria - they support the immune system. Trans fatty acids interfere with the function of the immune system.
Health Experts' Warnings

1. Consume 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol, and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible. - US department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

2. Consumption of trans fat be reduced to trace amounts. - Health authorities worldwide

3. The results of studies suggest that the intake of trans fatty acids compared to saturated fatty acids per gram is associated with a 10-fold higher risk increment for the development of coronary heart disease. - Danish Nutrition Council

4. Trans fats have no known nutritional benefits and because of the effect they have on blood cholesterol, they increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Evidence suggests the effects of trans fats are worse than saturated fats. - UK's Food Standard Agency

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs)

According to WHO, globally cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death and is projected to remain so.

CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels which include coronary heart disease (heart attacks), cerebrovascular disease, raised blood pressure (hypertension), peripheral artery disease, rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease and heart failure.

What Causes CVD?

The rise in CVDs worldwide reflects a significant change in diet habits, as a result of industrialization and economic development. People are consuming a more energy-dense, nutrient-poor diet and are less physical activity. Imbalanced nutrition, reduced physical activity and increased tobacco consumption are the key lifestyle factors that contribute to the risks of CVDs.

It is well known that Unhealthy Diet and less Physical Activity are the major causes of CVDs.
Especially, unhealthy diet attributable to high consumption of saturated fats, salt and refined foods - many refined foods content Trans Fat. Plus a low consumption of fruit and vegetable.

Recommended Preventive Dietary Strategies

Strong evidence indicates that Lifestyle changes and the following dietary habits can make a big difference:

1. Limit consumption of saturated fat, such as red meat.
2. Avoid trans fatty acid as much as possible.
3. Increase consumption of polyunsaturated acids such as omega-3 fatty acids
4. Consume more rich in dietary fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables. Nuts and whole grains.
5. Consume less processed foods.
6. Avoid excessive salty or sugary foods.
7. Be active physically - 30 minutes walk a day will make a big difference.
8. Avoid smoking.

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