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The role of fats in our bodies

Fats have an important physiological function. They can be essential or stored fat. Essential fats are stored in the bone marrow, heart, spleen, kidneys, liver, heart and nervous system. These organs cannot function correctly without a certain amount of essential fat. Fat that is found in adipose tissue under the skin or around the internal organs  (for protection) is called stored fat.

Fat provides us with energy for long periods of exercise but intensities have to be lower in order for the oxygen present to be able to burn it. Fat is also an essential source of energy for reproduction, growth and increased demands on physical activity. A specific amount of fat is needed for health:

  • For men this is between 8 and 24%, and
  • For women this is between 21 and 35%.

These figures are relative to body weight, height and age).

Fat is the most calorie dense out of all nutrients. For every gram of fat there are 9 calories of energy which is twice as much as that found in carbohydrates and protein. They body finds fat the most difficult nutrient to use as energy. The body wil only burn fat as a last resort and that is why it’s so difficult to lose.

What is saturated fat?

Saturaed fats clog arteries so causing a number of health problems that we see today. Examples are obesioty, heart disease an cancer. Saturated fats are usually from animal origin with the exception of some tropical oils. They are usually found in food such as meats, eggs, dairy products, cakes, chocolates, pastries, pies, cheese, butter, create, coconut oil as well as palm and kernel oil.

What is trans fat?

Transfat is processed by the food-manufcturing process. They are processed to create a more stable and solid fat. This is a process called hydrogenation as hyguron atoms are added to the unsaturated (liquid) fats. Sources of transfat include: chips from fast food outlets as well as baked goods such as crackers and biscuits.

What is unsaturated fat?

Unsaturated fats are better for you. They promote good cholesterol and reduce the risk of illness. Unsaturated fats are predominantely found in plant extracts with the exception of fish. The structure of unsaturated fats are generall y more fluid and liquid at room temp;erature. Unsaturated fats can be divided into polyunsaturated and monounsatured fats:

  • Polyunsaturated: Fats that have two or more double bonds between carbons, e.g. sunflower seed oil, mayonnaise, margarine
  • Monounsaturated: Fats that have one bouble fond between the carbons, e.g. olive oil, avocados and certain nuts.

what are essential fatty acids?

Essential fatty acids are fats that have to be obtained by diet or supplements. They are omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids. The omega refers to the position of the boudle bond on the carbon chain. Essential fatty acids are essential components of our cell members for cekks such as those in the:

  • Brain
  • Nerves
  • Muscles

These fatty acids in the body also regulate inflammation within the body’s system. in order for these membranes to remain healthy the correct and ideal proportion of essential fatty acids have to be obtained through the means of supplements:

  • Omega 3s (alpha-linolenic acids) have positive effects on arthritis, cardiovascular disease and inflammatory disorders. These oils can be found and obtained from salmon, pilchards, anchovies and smaller amounts in soybeans, canola and flaxseed oil.
  • Omega 6: (linoleic acid) has similar functions to the omega 3 oils and can be found and obtained in most vegetable oils and seed oils. Most mayonnaise and salad dressings will have these oils in them.

Not all fats are uniformly beneficial.  This means that it is vital to recognise the differences between the kinds of fat, read labels thoroughly as well as make healthy dietary choices.

If you are confused about your dietary requirements it is advised to seek consultation of a professional health or fitness expert.

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