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PART 1: What We Need To Know About Fat, Trans Fatty Acid (Trans Fat), and Cholesterol?
Q: What are fats and fatty acids?
A: Fats are a group of chemical compounds that contain fatty acids. Energy is stored in the body mostly in the form of fat. Fat is also needed in the diet to supply essential fatty acids that are substances essential for growth but not produced by the body itself. The terms fat and fatty acids are frequently used interchangeably.
Q: What are the main types of fatty acids?
A: There are three main types of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. All fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atoms. A saturated fatty acid has the maximum possible number of hydrogen atoms attached to every carbon atom. It is therefore said to be "saturated" with hydrogen atoms, and all of the carbons are attached to each other with single bonds.
In some fatty acids, a pair of hydrogen atoms in the middle of a chain is missing, creating a gap that leaves two carbon atoms connected by a double bond rather than a single bond. Because the chain has fewer hydrogen atoms, it is said to be "unsaturated." A fatty acid with one double bond is called "monounsaturated" because it has one gap. Fatty acids having more than one gap are called "polyunsaturated."
Q: What is trans fat?
A: Trans fat (also known as trans fatty acids) is a specific type of fat formed when liquid oils are made into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine. However, a small amount of trans fat is found naturally, primarily in some animal-based foods.
Where will I find trans fat?
Vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.
Trans fat behaves like saturated fat by raising low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Trans fat can be found in some of the same foods as saturated fat, such as vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
As stated in FDA's labeling regulations, if a fat or oil ingredient is completely hydrogenated, the name in the ingredient list will include the term "hydrogenated." Or, if partially hydrogenated, the name in the ingredient list will include the term "partially hydrogenated." As stated above, oil that is partially hydrogenated is a source of trans fat.
Q: What is the role of fat in the diet?
A: Fat is a major source of energy for the body and aids in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K, and carotenoids. Both animal and plant-derived food products contain fat, and when eaten in moderation, fat is important for proper growth, development, and maintenance of good health. As a food ingredient, fat provides taste, consistency, and stability and helps us feel full. In addition, parents should be aware that fats are an especially important source of calories and nutrients for infants and toddlers (up to 2 years of age), who have the highest energy needs per unit of body weight of any age group.
Q: Are all fats the same?
A: Simply put: no. While unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are beneficial when consumed in moderation, saturated fat and trans fat are not. Saturated fat and trans fat raise LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Therefore, it is advisable to choose foods low in both saturated and trans fats as part of a healthful diet.
Q: What about cholesterol?
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