Blood fats and dietary fats

Nutritive substances (“structural fat

Overview

Function of fats

  • Nutritive substances (“structural fat”)
    • Protection for organs (among others)
    • Related parts and layers of tissue
  • Energy store (“storage fat”)
    • Excess or deficiency can often be diagnosed by sight
    • Can be measured on weight scales
    • Possible diseases: obesity, bulimia, anorexia
  • Components of hormones, various metabolic functions

Origin

  • Directly from food (“essential fatty acids” only)
  • Manufactured in the body from smaller molecules
  • Fats can be ingested or manufactured in quantities that are too big or too small

Blood fats

  • Rough classification: cholesterol (HDL/LDL) and triglycerides (neutral fat)
  • Concentration can be measured by blood tests
Cholesterol
  • Contained in cell membranes
  • Precursor for hormones – including the sex hormones
  • Raw material for bile acids (important for fat digestion)
  • Water-insoluble (therefore bound to proteins in the blood)
    • High-density lipoproteins (combinations of fat and proteins) (HDL)
    • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
  • LDL (“bad cholesterol”)
    • Broken down in liver
    • If percentage in blood is too high: broken down too slowly, excess builds up
    • Excess LDL: stored in the walls of arteries, leads to arteriosclerosis (“arterial calcification”), high blood pressure, etc.
  • HDL (“good cholesterol”)
    • Protects against arteriosclerosis
    • Absorbs fat from cells – even from artery walls – and transports them to the liver
    • “Disposal” form of cholesterol
Triglycerides or neutral fat
  • Absorbed from food
  • Involved in causing arteriosclerosis
  • Main component of human adipose tissue (energy reserves)
  • Supplier of energy for long-term physical performance
Total cholesterol or LDL is increased by:
  • Genetic factors
  • Excessive intake of saturated fatty acids (see above)
    • Easily converted into cholesterol in the body
  • Too much cholesterol in the diet
Triglyceride levels are increased by: 
  • Excessive intake of animal fats or saturated fatty acids (associated with obesity)
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Excessive consumption of sugar/carbohydrates and protein
    • If these are not needed, they are converted into fat and stored as such in the body
  • Lack of exercise
  • Family history
  • Lipid metabolic disorders

Causes and treatment

Dietary fats and oils

  • Consist mainly of fatty acids (with different levels of saturation)
    • Saturated fatty acids
    • Polyunsaturated fatty acids
    • Monounsaturated fatty acids
  • A “healthy” diet is high in unsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated fatty acids
  • For general recommendations, see “Healthy diet
Saturated fatty acids
  • Percentage in diet is too high (general problem in Central Europe)
  • Easy to recognise as they are solid at room temperature
  • Butter, cream, hard cheese (also fondue)
  • Meat and sausage meat
  • Coconut and palm oil
Polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • “Essential” (i.e. have to be ingested with food)
  • Various metabolic functions (e.g. reduction of triglyceride level)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: anti-inflammatory effect, linseed and rape oil, walnuts, oily fish (e.g. salmon, anchovies)
  • Omega-6 fatty acids: sunflower, soya, maize germ and safflower oil as well as most brands of margarine
Monounsaturated fatty acids
  • Should form the main component of the daily fat intake
  • Reduction of LDL cholesterol
  • In olive oil, seeds, nuts
Trans fatty acids
  • These are the “bad guys”
  • They are unsaturated fatty acids
  • Formed by partial hydrogenation (industrial)
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Intake via food is difficult to control
    • Packaging labels usually don't indicate percentage
    • Indications that they may be there: label states “partially hydrogenated fats”

Therapy approach

  • Objective: reduction of blood fat content
  • Change in diet (nutritional advice, if needed)
  • If it can't be reduced enough: medication (statins, fibrates or cholesterol inhibitors)

What can I do myself?

  • For general recommendations, see “Healthy diet
  • Be careful of fat composition of food (in particular if there are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases)
  • Read food labels
    • Low-fat products with beneficial fat composition are better (low in animal fats)
    • Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated fats
  • Regular exercise

Get a personal Preventive Care Recommendation now.

When to see a doctor?

  • For regular monitoring of blood fat levels if:

Further information

Cardiovascular diseases

Schweizerische Herzstiftung (Swiss Heart Foundation)
www.swissheart.ch

Obesity

Schweizerische Adipositas-Stiftung SAPS (Swiss Obesity Foundation)
www.adipositas-stiftung.ch

Selbsthilfe Schweiz (Self-Help Support Switzerland)
www.selbsthilfeschweiz.ch

Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Ernährung SGE (Swiss Society for Nutrition)
www.sge-ssn.ch

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Synonyms

blood fats and dietary fats, lipids, cholesterol and triglycerides, dietary fats, triglycerides, blood fats

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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