All About Nutrition

Fats Explained
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What is fat?

fats - saturate, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturatedFat is one of the three macronutrients required to be eaten in relatively large amounts each day (the other two are carbohydrates and protein).

Fats and oils are officially known as lipids and they are insoluble in water. The difference between fats and oils is:

Not all fats are bad. Some fats, such as essential fatty acids, are actually very good for maintaining proper health - the body requires a certain amount of fat each day for good health.


Classification of fat

Fat is a type of nutrient also known as lipids. Lipids include the following types:


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Triglycerides types of lipids which are formed from three fatty acids attached to a glycerol base.

Triglycerides can be either:


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Apart from the membrane of the cells of the body, the other most common food source of phospholipids is lecithin, which is similar in form to a triglyceride, except that it has 2 fatty acids with a choline molecule, on the glycerol base.

Food sources of lecithin are:

The liver makes enough of its own lecithin in normally health individuals, but dietary sources of lecithin are still usable.

Phospholipids are useful because they are fat soluble (from the lipid part) and also water soluble (from the phospho or phosphate part), which is a reason why the body cells are permeable to water. Because of their dual properties, phospholipids can help lipids move in and out of cells through the cell membrane.



The other type of lipids are sterols, very different to the other two types of lipids. Cholesterol is the most commonly known sterol and it can have both "good" and "bad" effects in the body, and in particular on the cardiovascular system.

Plants contain phytosterols, while animal foods contain cholesterol. Both these types of sterols have healthy effects on the body (except for"bad" (LDL) cholesterol, which needs to be avoided for good cardiovascular health).


The role of sterols are:


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Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids are those fatty acids that the body cannot manufacture on its own, so are required to be consumed on a daily basis to ensure good health.

The two essential fatty acids (EFAs) are:

One main function of EFA are to produce prostaglandins, which regulate bodily functions such as:

The body requires these two essential fatty acids in a specific ratio to regulate and maintain many functions within the body. The ratio recommended is 4 (Omega 6) : 1 (Omega 3), but in the West, the ratio is more likely to be anywhere from 10:1 to 25:1, which current research shows is not healthy.


More information

To learn more, go to the American Heart Association web site.


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Last reviewed: 5 April 2007 || Last updated: 27 September 2007


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NOTE: Mega doses of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or other supplements cannot cure illnesses and in fact can be very dangerous and produce toxic side effects and interfere with medicine you are taking. Always ensure you consult your doctor before taking any type of nutrient supplement.
Disclaimer: This guide is not intended to be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. For any treatment or diagnosis of illness, please see your doctor.

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