I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Bad fats are not the ones that are bad for you. Most people think that all fats are equal, when in fact, fat is actually a very diverse bunch of compounds with very different properties. The two main types are saturated fats and unsaturated fats. These bad fats were created by human beings and are found in foods such as meats, dairy products, and oils. The problem is that they are very unhealthy and create a lot of problems for the body, such as the development of heart diseases and diabetes.

In the last few years, American diet and nutrition has changed drastically. High fat foods have been demonized, while low fat has been said to be the key to a healthier life. The truth is that the best diet for you is the one that fits into your lifestyle, and that doesn’t mean it needs to be low fat. How bad fats are for you depends on what they are, and how much you’re eating of them.

In the NP, we talk a lot about good fats, like omega-3 fatty acids from sources like fish and nuts. But if there are good fats, by definition there must also be bad fats.

The good news is that : Since most bad fats come from industrial food processing, it is difficult to get excessive amounts of bad fats from whole, unprocessed foods.

What are bad fats?

But to understand how fat is broken down, we must first talk about the structure of fatty acids. I know it borders on science, but bear with us. ….

Fatty acids are long chains of hydrocarbons. The molecules look like caterpillars. In the presence of a carbon-carbon double bond, there is the possibility of a cis or trans configuration.

Almost all naturally occurring long-chain unsaturated fatty acids have a cis configuration, resembling a caterpillar with a kink. Sisters are a good thing.

Trans fats

During processing, trans fatty acids may be formed as a by-product of the saturation of the fatty acids. This sets the caterpillar straight. Trance is bad.

Essentially, trans fats are formed by taking an unsaturated fat (soft or liquid at room temperature) and passing hydrogen ions through it. This changes the structure of the fat so that it behaves like a saturated fat. Natural oil becomes hard when hydrogenated.

Why do companies need to hydrogenate fats to make trans fatty acids? For example, companies hydrogenate fats to improve mouthfeel and extend shelf life. Natural fats are generally not solid at room temperature and they spoil faster. So hydrogenation is good for profits – but not for our health.

Remember, not all configurations of trans fats are bad for you. Some of these are found in nature, such as. B. hydrogenation of unsaturated fats, which occurs in the rumen of cows and sheep. (CLA is an example of a trans fat that can be healthy.) Only artificial fats should be avoided.

Saturated fats

Together with trans fatty acids, saturated fatty acids are also called bad fats. And they can become so if consumed in excessive amounts.

However, the amount found in non-artificial foods does not generally contribute to chronic disease.

In excess and imbalance with unsaturated fats, lauric acid, myristic acid and palmitic acid are saturated fats that can increase bad cholesterol levels. Lauric acid, myristic acid and palmitic acid are found in beef fat, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, butter, cheese, milk and palm oil.

However, stearic acid (another saturated fat) can even lower LDL levels. Stearic acids are found in cocoa butter and beef.

Data from the Harvard School of Public Health

Why are bad fats so important?

Because trans fats do not twist or fold like cis fats, they penetrate the cell membrane very tightly.

Clinical and epidemiological studies show that this means an increased risk of coronary heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases, possibly due to their ability to manipulate the fluidity of the membranes.

The trans-isomer of oleic acid, known as elaic acid, raises cholesterol levels and may also contribute to heart disease.

Trans fats not only raise bad cholesterol levels, but also lower good cholesterol levels. High consumption of trans fats is also associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and lymphoma.

Saturated fats are positively correlated with the risk of cardiovascular disease, mainly through the effect of elevated cholesterol levels and adverse changes in the overall cholesterol profile. But saturated fats can raise both good and bad cholesterol levels, so their effects are complex.

Excessive consumption of saturated fat has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, poor blood viscosity, breast cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, stroke and prostate cancer.

Bad fats can inhibit the release of bile acids, increase the synthesis of bad cholesterol in the liver, and limit the absorption of bad cholesterol into the tissues.

What you should know

Trans fats compete with essential fats and can exacerbate essential fatty acid deficiencies. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tracked the exercise and dietary habits of 80,000 women over a 14-year period and found that the most important factor influencing the development of heart disease was the amount of trans fat in the diet.

One meal with a lot of bad fats can affect the function and elasticity of blood vessels. This can contribute to the progression of heart disease.

A diet based on whole, unprocessed foods makes it difficult to accumulate large amounts of trans fats and saturated fats. Most bad fats are added to foods to directly or indirectly increase their profitability.

For additional credit

  • Milk fats contain between 4% and 8% trans fatty acids.
  • Products containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per 14 grams of serving may be labelled as 0 grams.
  • For every 1% increase in total energy intake from saturated fat, a 2.7 mg/dl increase in plasma cholesterol is expected.
  • The US National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2002 that there is no safe measure of trans fat consumption. There is no appropriate value, recommended daily allowance or upper limit for trans fats. Indeed, any gradual increase in the consumption of trans fats increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • The World Health Organization has recommended that trans fatty acids be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake.
  • The following diet contains 20 g of trans fats:

2 microwaveable wafers (4.5 g)
1 bag (1 serving) of potato chips (8 g)
1 serving of potato chips (4.5 g)
1 tablespoon margarine (3.5 g)

Summary and recommendations

  • Saturated fats should make up no more than 10% of your total calories. For a person consuming 2500 calories per day, this means a maximum consumption of 27 grams of saturated fat per day. If you eat according to NP guidelines, you shouldn’t have a problem with this. But don’t overdo it. If your fats are balanced, you’re good.
  • Limit trans fatty acids as much as possible. The less you use, the better.
  • Avoid industrially processed, artificially produced foods high in added fat.

Better eating, moving and living ©

You will learn the best nutrition, exercise and lifestyle strategies – unique and individual – for you.


Click here to see the sources of information referenced in this article.

Barnard ND, et al. A guide to nutrition for clinicians. 1. Traffic. PCRM. 2007.

Borer K.T. Exercise endocrinology. Human Kinetics. Champaign, Illinois. 2003.

Groff JL & Gropper SS. Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. 3. Wadsworth Thomson Learning. 2000. ed.

Eller FJ, et al. Production of an FDA-compliant bread spread for labeling trans fatty acids by pressure hydrogenation. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2005;53:5982-5984.

Mahan LK & Escott-Stump S. Eds. Krause’s Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy. 11. Traffic. Saunders Publishers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2004.

Murray RK, Granner DK, Mayes PA, Rodwell VW, eds. Harper’s Illustrated Biochemistry. 26. Question. McGraw Hill. 2003.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which are the bad fats?

The bad fats are saturated and trans fats.

What can happen if you eat too much bad fats?

If you eat too much bad fats, it can lead to a number of health problems. These include: Heart disease High cholesterol levels in the blood Diabetes Obesity Cancer What are good fats? Good fats are found in foods such as: Avocados Nuts and seeds Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna and sardines Olive oil What are bad fats? Bad fats are found in foods such as:

Are all fats harmful?

No, not all fats are harmful. Some fats are actually good for you. For example, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and flaxseed oil have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. What are the different types of fats? There are three main types of fats: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs. Monounsaturated fats are found in plant foods such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts. Polyunsaturated fats are found in plant foods such as fish oil and flaxseed oil. What are the health benefits of polyunsaturated fats? Polyunsaturated fats have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

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