Diet manuals and personally training and nutrition blogs often have one word on their lips: fats. Yet the general public could be forgiven for being slightly confused about the subject. After all, the way the body metabolizes the compound and how much an individual needs varies from person to person.
However, a new (and first of its kind) study has revealed the secrets of how the amount of fat found in our food affects the blood cholesterol levels as well as where this fat would be stored in the body following a meal, the latter being something that had yet to be examined.
Publishing their paper in the scientific journal Diabetes, the team from the Uppsala University were the first to examine the influence of dietary fats in humans, particularly regarding where the organic compound is deposited following digestion.
The paper was based on a group of thirty-nine individuals, all of normal weight, who had to consume an extra 750 calories per day for almost two months. These extra calories originated from a special muffin that was high in fat, the only difference was what fat they contained: some had polyunsaturated fats whilst the others were high in saturated fats.
The rest of their diet (that is carbohydrates, proteins and other fat sources) was the same.
Polyunsaturated fats contain triglycerides (fatty acids) that, chemically, contain more than one carbon-carbon double bond. This type of triglyceride includes some essential fats that the body needs to ingest, as it is unable to manufacture itself.
Commonly found in walnuts and oily fish like salmon and often mentioned under the name of omega-3 and -6, these polyunsaturated fats have been shown to improve cognitive behavior whilst lowering the incidence of several heart conditions when taken in moderation.
On the other hand, the chemical composition of saturated fats is characterized by the absence of carbon-carbon double bonds within the molecule. While some amounts are required in our diet, the general consensus from leading health organizations is that the intake of these compounds, found in foods like red meat and butter, should be limited in order to remain healthy.
The test subjects were asked to undertake several before-and-after measurements in order to provide a comparable data set. Muscle mass and fat distribution was recorded using an MRI scan, whilst gene activity in the visceral fat (the fat that surrounds your organs) was measured from a gene chip implanted in the test subjects.
Following their seven-week long polyunsaturated-rich or saturated-rich calories surplus diet, both groups showed comparable gains in weight. However, how and where the weight was gained showed marked differences.
Those on the polyunsaturated-rich diet gained three times more mass from muscle than their test counterparts, whilst simultaneously showing less visceral, liver and abdominal fat deposition compared to the saturated-rich diet.
The researchers concluded that a diet with excess polyunsaturated fats gained more muscle and less fat than the other test group, which is particularly relevant in western societies where many of the individuals often consume excess calories.
Furthermore, analysis of the data from the gene chips revealed the effects of the two types of fat in the activation of certain genes. Polyunsaturated fat was seen to “turn on” genes responsible for decreasing the deposition of fat around the organs as well as improving how sugar is metabolized in the body, both of which are an important factor in reducing the incidence of diabetes.
Following this research, how will you incorporate polyunsaturated fats in your diet? What are your favorite recipes that are rich in them? Be sure to let us know!