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Why are Some Fats Worse Than Others?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012 12:32 PM

Why do some fats, such as those found in animal products, raise risks of heart disease and other life-threatening conditions while others, like omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, provide significant benefits that can boost longevity?
Food scientists from the University of New Mexico and Northwestern University have come up with a surprising answer: Different fats interact in different ways – some bad, some good – with the naturally occurring bacteria in our digestive systems.
The findings, detailed in latest issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology, indicate “unhealthy” fats – in fried foods and animal products – encourage the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive system. Our bodies have evolved to launch an immune-system response against them, which results in low-level inflammation that, over time, causes such chronic conditions as heart disease.
"Although the inflammatory effects of [fats] are well documented, it is less well appreciated that they also influence bacterial survival and proliferation in the gastrointestinal tract," said the researchers, led by Joe Alcock, of the University of New Mexico.
Other “healthy” fats – primarily unsaturated fats in fish and plant-based foods – have powerful antimicrobial properties that can reduce inflammation in the body, Alcock added.
"The combination of long-chain unsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, and innate host defenses like gastric acid and antimicrobial peptides, is particularly lethal to pathogenic bacteria," he said.
To reach these conclusions, Alcock and his colleagues pored over years of research on the microbial and inflammatory effects of fats.
"We found a highly significant relationship between those fats that had antimicrobial properties and those that had anti-inflammatory properties," Alcock said. "Fats that lack antimicrobial properties tended to be pro-inflammatory. It was a very, very strong relationship."

© HealthDay

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'Good' and 'bad' fats interact in different ways with naturally occurring bacteria in our digestive systems.
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 12:32 PM
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