In terms of chemistry, saturated fats are fat molecules in which all carbon atoms are saturated with hydrogen atoms so that no double bonds between carbon atoms exist. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.
There are two types of cholesterol in our bodies: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL is the 'good' cholesterol that stabilizes overall blood cholesterol levels; LDL is the 'bad' cholesterol that builds up in the arteries, causing atherosclerosis. Saturated fat consumption increases LDL levels in the blood.
Excess consumption of foods that come from animals are the obvious risk factor: These include beef, beef fat, veal, lamb, pork, lard, poultry skin/fat, eggs, butter, cream, milk, cheeses and other dairy products made from whole milk.
Replace foods that are high in saturated fat with healthier options in order to lower blood cholesterol levels and improve lipid profiles (part of cardiac risk assessment to help determine an individual's risk of heart disease.)
Selecting healthier foods includes avoiding high-fat animal products and replacing them with:
Health food stores have delicious cholesterol-free meat, milk, and dairy product alternatives, as well as other excellent healthy options.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting saturated fat consumption to 6% or fewer of calories consumed. For someone consuming 2,200 calories per day, this means no more than 132 calories or saturated fats, which translates to roughly 15 grams or about half an ounce of saturated fat per day. One gram of fat contains 9 calories.
Diets rich in whole, plant foods and low in animal fat consumption appear to provide protection against many serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. These diets also appear to protect to varying degrees against Alzheimer's disease, dementia, Crohn's disease, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, premature aging, erectile dysfunction, prostate enlargement, and reduced male fertility.
A high animal fat diet is dangerous particularly when there is also a lack of fiber and exercise in ones daily routine. Pathologies such as atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, arthritis, inflammation and kidney failure may then develop. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is a process in which fat-based plaques form on the inside of arteries, which can then become blocked, deprive the heart of oxygen, and cause a portion of the heart to 'die'.
A study published in 2003 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicates that young women who eat more red meat and full-fat dairy products such as cheese may be raising their risk of breast cancer. When comparing the women in the highest fat intake group with women in lowest intake group, those with the highest intake had a 33% greater risk of invasive breast cancer according to Eunyoung Cho of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Breast cancer takes years to develop, usually showing up after menopause, and factors early in a woman's life may be important. This study is significant because it included women who had not yet reached menopause.
The study of more than 90,000 women aged 26 to 46 was taken from the Nurses' Health Study, in which volunteers answer regular questionnaires about diet and lifestyle and that data is analyzed by researchers who track the women's health. Over the eight years of the study, 714 of the women developed invasive breast cancer. A higher risk of breast cancer was observed among women who ate foods rich in animal fat such as red meat, cheese, ice cream and butter during their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Although it is not clear how animal fat may cause cancer, this study does indicate that there may be good reason for lowering overall animal fat intake, especially during a woman's early adult life.
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