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Saturated Fat

Saturated fat is fat that consists of triglycerides containing only saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds between the carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain (hence, they are fully saturated with hydrogen atoms). There are several kinds of naturally occurring saturated fatty acids, with their only difference being the number of carbon atoms - from 1 to 24. Some common examples of saturated fatty acids are butyric acid with 4 carbon atoms, (contained in butter), lauric acid with 12 carbon atoms (contained in mother's milk, coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter), myristic acid with 14 carbon atoms (contained in cow milk and dairy products), palmitic acid with 16 carbon atoms (contained in meat), stearic acid with 18 carbon atoms (also contained in meat).

Fat that occurs naturally in living matter such as animals and plants and that is used as food for human consumption contains a varying proportion of saturated and unsaturated fat. Foods that contain a high proportion of saturated fat are butter, ghee, suet, tallow, lard, coconut oil, cottonseed oil and palm oil, dairy products (especially cream and cheese), meat as well as some prepared foods. Other foods such as olive oil contain a high proportion of monounsaturated fat, while others such as sunflower oil and corn oil contain mainly polyunsaturated fat.

Dehydrogenation converts saturated fats to unsaturated fats, while hydrogenation accomplishes the reverse.

Health issues

Diets high in saturated fat correlate in some studies with an increased incidence of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Some studies suggest replacing saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fats will increase one's ratio of HDL to LDL serum cholesterol.

Controversy

It has been alleged that the many studies of saturated fat in the diet do not distinguish between saturated fat and trans fat. Some claim that saturated fat (in the absence of trans fat) is healthful; for example, foods such as peanuts and pure peanut butter (peanut butter having no added partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) contain saturated fat but no trans fat. Such foods may be beneficial or may be a health hazard; no research specific to this question has as yet been done.

Also, it has been pointed out that meat and dairy foods contain some naturally-occurring trans fatty acids. It is unknown whether or not they cause heart disease. Some researchers claim that there are "good" trans fatty acids, such as conjugated linoleic acid.

Table: Fatty Acid and Cholesterol Composition of Some Common Fats

 

Saturated

Monounsaturated

Polyunsaturated

Cholesterol

g/Tbsp

g/Tbsp

g/Tbsp

mg/Tbsp

Canola Oil

1.0

8.2

4.1

0

Safflower Oil

1.2

1.6

10.1

0

Sunflower Oil

1.4

2.7

8.9

0

Corn Oil

1.17

3.3

8.0

0

Olive Oil

1.8

9.9

1.1

0

Sesame Oil

1.9

5.4

5.7

0

Soybean Oil

2.0

3.2

7.9

0

Peanut Oil

2.3

6.2

4.3

0

Vegetable Shortening

3.2

5.7

3.3

0

Chicken Fat

3.8

5.7

2.7

11

Lard

5.0

5.8

1.4

12

Beef Tallow

6.4

5.3

0.5

14

Palm Oil

6.7

5.0

1.3

0

Butter

7.1

3.4

0.6

31

Palm Kernel Oil

11.1

1.5

0.2

0

Coconut Oil

11.8

0.8

0.2

0

 

 

 

   

 


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