English: A salmon rose, part of a sashimi dinn...

Lipids:

Lipids (i.e., fats) are the most concentrated source of energy in the diet.  One gram of fat yields approximately nine calories when oxidized, furnishing more than twice the calories per gram of carbohydrates or proteins.

In addition to providing energy, fats act as carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  By aiding in the absorption of vitamin D, calcium is also available to body tissues, particularly to the bones and teeth.  Fats are also important for the conversation of carotene to vitamin A.

Lipids/Fats are involved in the following:
▪    Cellular membrane structure and function
▪    Precursors to hormones
▪    Cellular signals
▪    Regulation and excretion of nutrients in the cells

Fat deposits surround, protect and hold in place organs (visceral fat), such as the kidneys, heart and liver.  A layer of fat insulates the body from environmental temperature changes and preserves body heat.  Dietary fats prolong the digestion process by slowing the stomach’s secretions of hydrochloric acid, this creating a longer lasting sensation of fullness after a meal (satiation).

Fat in Foods:

The bulk of fat consumed in the diet is ingested in the form of triglycerides.  Triglycerides are made up of a glycerol backbone with three fatty acids attached.  The fatty acids attached to the glycerol may differ from one another in two ways: chain length and degree of saturation.  Saturation refers to the chemical structure.  A saturated fatty acid is one that carries the maximum number of hydrogen atoms, leaving no points of unsaturation.  Unsaturated fatty acids can be divided into two types: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.  Food fats contain a mixture of the three kinds of fatty acids.

When a fat contains predominantly saturated fatty acids, it is said to be a saturated fat.  Similarly, when a fat or oil contains a large proportion of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat, respectively.  Generally, the more unsaturated the fat, the lower it’s melting point and the more likely it is to become liquid at room temperature.

Trans-fatty acids are not generally found in nature.  Trans-fatty acids are created when double bonds are transformed into single bonds through the addition of hydrogen.  This entire process creates trans-fatty acids.  An example of this process is when a poly-unsaturated vegetable oil is transformed into a semi-solid (i.e., margarine, shortening).

Essential fatty acids:

Essential fatty acids (EFA‘s) are just that, essential!  These fats are considered essential simply because they CAN NOT be manufactured by the body.  Furthermore, essential fats CAN NOT be manufactured from other sources within the body, as is the case with essential amino acids.  EFA’s must be provided to the body through one’s dietary intake or via supplementation.  The common essential fats are; Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9.

**Interesting fact: The FDA recently changed the recommended ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids to Omega-3 fatty acids from a 20:1 ratio, to a 3:1 ratio…I’m no math whiz but that’s a tremendous difference!  It’s now known, saturated fats only account for approximately 20% of arterial plaque accumulation.  What happens when Omega-6 fats grossly out number Omega-3’s (i.e., 20:1 ratio)?  We find where the other 80% of arteriolosclerosis comes from!

Essential fatty acids truly deserve the attention of an entire article.  However, you can’t have an article titled, Lipids, without including something about the shear necessity of EFA’s.  If you can afford only one supplement, make certain it be a quality Omega-3 fatty acid supplement!

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