By Annette McMurrey
The subject of fats -- which are critical part of our nutritional needs -- has been fraught in recent decades with confusion by consumers and often contradictory conclusions by researchers, nutritionists and physicians. Current research findings appear to fly in the face of some long-held and much-published information on the subject, and many professionals are not "up to speed" on these because the information they received in their schooling (and continue to dispense to their clients) has been proven incorrect in later studies. While researching this article on the internet, I found there is still much misinformation which has not been updated. In addition, physicians -- upon whom most people rely for dietary advice -- have not in the past been required to take nutrition courses. (This has begun to change in the current curriculum of many medical schools.) This article contains the latest information I have been able to find on the subject. Please be aware, however, that the research in this area updates our views at a rapid pace, and there may be new information by the time you read this! I suggest, if you are interested in this subject, for you to make it a point to keep yourself updated on the topic. (If you read nothing else in this article, PLEASE, for your health's sake, read the first paragraph under Transfatty Acids.)
HOW MANY CALORIES?
All fats and oils have approximately the same amount of calories -- 9 per gram of fat or oil. This includes butter, regular margarine, olive oil, canola oil, every other kind of oil, animal fat, coconut oil, etc. This equates to about 100 - 120 calories per tablespoon.
WHAT MAKES A FAT A FAT?
The basic molecular structure for BOTH fats and oils is the same. The primary structure is chains of carbon atoms linked together. (Think of the pieces of train track you used link together as a kid.) These carbon chains are called fatty acids. Fat molecules are made up of one, two or three sets of these chains. When your doctor says your triglyceride levels are high, he is talking about fats which are made up of three chains. (The "tri" in triglyceride meaning -- of -- course three.) Fats and oils are usually called "lipids" by biochemists.
Continued on Page 2