15 November 2011

fats basics

There are four types of fats.
Um...Wait. I meant Dietary fats!
Four types of Fatty Acids.

Ease up, Poindexter - This is the simple explanation!
The de-mystified version of fatty acids.  OK.
Just like proteins are made from amino acids,
Fats are made up of fatty acids. (link)

The four types of Dietary Fatty Acids:
1. Saturated. 
 2. Monounsaturated (MUFA)
3. Polyunsaturated (PUFA)
4. Transfat (link)

Saturated Fat.
The molecules are saturated completely - with hydrogen.
They are not "bad." 
If anything, they are very good!
MUFA - Unsaturated at one single point along the chain
PUFA - Unsaturated at many - poly - points along the chain.
Transfat - Hydrogenated - and partially hydrogenated - 
mostly man-made... mostly not good!

Fatty Acids (fats) are 
Short chains - up to 6 carbons
Medium chains - 6 to 12 carbons
(form our MCT!)
Long chains  -  longer than 12 carbons
Very Long chains - longer than 22 carbons attached.
The chains can get very long! So far, so good! (link)

"No, Mister Bond - I expect you to die!"
Nope - Not that kind of bond.

Bonds occur at certain intervals and in certain ways.
From wiki:
cis configuration means that adjacent hydrogen atoms are on the same side of the double bond. The rigidity of the double bond freezes its conformation and, in the case of the cis isomer, causes the chain to bend and restricts the conformational freedom of the fatty acid. The more double bonds the chain has in the cis configuration, the less flexibility it has. When a chain has many cisbonds, it becomes quite curved in its most accessible conformations. For example, oleic acid, with one double bond, has a "kink" in it, whereas linoleic acid, with two double bonds, has a more pronounced bend. Alpha-linolenic acid, with three double bonds, favors a hooked shape.

Certain fats, therefore, have certain jobs.
They are very specific. All of them are needed for something.
Ultimately the job of all dietary fatty acids is to feed the
cellular mitochondria. What bodies and cells are made of.
Mighty Mitochondria! The powerhouse of the cell!
Mitochondria love to "eat" fatty acids. (link)

Mitochondria - it's their world. 
We just live in it.

Of all the fats, there are only 2 (count them) 
That can not be re-arranged (by the body) from diet.
The Essential Fatty Acids.
Hence the name.  (link)
They were once called Vitamin F! For Fat!

They are Omega 3 (ALA) and Omega 6 (LA)
The have a bond at the end of chain. 
So they are called Omega - as in final.
But the science community calls them N~ "something."
N-3 ...Omega 3.   N-6 ...Omega 6.

Alpha-Linolenic acid is an essential omega-3 fatty acid. 
 In physiological literature, it is given the name 18:3 (n−3).
It is found abundantly in plant oils.
But does not convert to EPA and DHA very easily. (link)
Which is a the "money shot" of the whole ordeal.
Naming Note
The 18 (for example) means it's a long chain - 18 carbon atoms.
The 3 means the number of double bonds. (poly here)
And the (n-3) means 3 carbon atoms at the terminal end of the group.
Or in this case, Omega 3!

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA or also icosapentaenoic acid) 
is an essential omega-3 fatty acid
In physiological literature, it is given the name 20:5 (n-3).
EPA and DHA are found in cold-water seafoods.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega-3 fatty acid. 
It's shorthand name is 22:6(n-3) in the nomenclature of fatty acids.
So this one is a long chain, with lots of double bonds.

When it comes to the difference of fish vs plant omega 3 fatty acids, there is a significant difference. The omega 3 oils found in fish consist primarily of EPA and DHA, whereas plants like flax seed contain ALA. Research shows that EPA and DHA provide different functions than ALAs. Our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, however, that conversion process is slow. Moreover, the omega 3s found in fish oils are long chain fatty acids; those found in plants, particularly in seeds, contain shorter chains which are weaker than those found in fish. (link)

Omega 6
Linoleic acid (LA) is an unsaturated n-6 fatty acid
Also, an essential fatty acid.
In physiological literature, it has a lipid number of 18:2 (n-6).

Most people get more that enough N-6 
in their everyday diet. Anything made with - or fried in soy
or corn oil ...even olive oil! Any of the so-called "healthy" oils.
One tablespoon of soybean oil provides over 6 grams of omega 6!
Enough to choke a small horse.

Even one table spoon full of olive oil
is pretty heavy on the N-6

How, then, would a person increase the omega 3 portion
of the diet - to get a better ratio between the omega 6 to omega 3?
"They" suggest a ratio of 2 to 1 .    Or 4 to 1.
Most of us get 20 to 1.   Or 40 to 1. (link)
And I'm sure it only goes up from there!

Gamma Linolenic Acid is a "sometimes"  essential fatty acid.
GLA is designated as 18:3 (n−6)
So we know it is made from the Omega 6 series...
Abundant, except in very rare conditions where the body can't convert it.

Omega 9
Also an "somewhat conditional" essential fatty acid.
Most of this comes from conversion in the body.
Oleic acid 18:1, n−9
Erucic acid 22:1, n−9
Loernzo's Oil (link) is the triglyceride form
of am combination of these oils...
And also my fave movie - perhaps of all time.

Arachidonic acid (AA) is an poly unsaturated omega 6 fatty acid.
It has a lipid number of  20:4 (n-6)
It's only essential when there isn't enough n-6...
[which doesn't happen alot - as we now know!]
Or when the body can't convert it for some reason.
Because as you can imagine, that is a very long chain!
Might need a little help from the diet. (link)

So that's all there is to it!
Not quite all there is to know - about the fatty acids.
But it's a good start for non-science and non-medical people.
And questions? Wikipedia is a great place to start.
Let's learn together.
When you look your foods up in a data bank, you can know
a little about what they are talking about. (link)

Later- if ya want to - 
We'll talk about the Saturated Fats.
Maybe even the Medium Chain Triglycerides.
That's sure to be a rip -roaring event!
Hope to see you there!
Class dismissed. 
Go have some healthy fat!


  1. I'm going to read this again slowly to see if I can get it. I read a children's book about mitochondria when I was younger and now it is hard to think of them a different way than in the story. It was called A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle.

  2. I had to read it a few times but it's starting to sink in! You are really gifted at explaining this stuff. Thanks for taking the time to post.


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