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Saturated Fat And Trans-Fat And Their Affects On Cardio Vascular Health


Saturated fat and trans-fat form a sizeable proportion of the fats in animal products such as beef and milk. Several studies indicate an increased association between the saturated fat and trans-fat with cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat generally refers to the fat that has triglycerides coupled with saturated fatty acids radicals as part of their composition. Saturated fatty acids lack double bonds while the major source includes meat and dairy products (Mozaffarian 1601). Trans-fats are all unsaturated fatty acids whose structure constitute of a single or multiple non-conjugated dual bonds. The major sources include hydrogenated vegetables oils used in the preparation of fasts foods. Dairy products and beef especially from ruminant animal also contain large amounts of trans-fatty acids (Rosdahi and Kowalski 308). This essay will look into the saturated and trans-fats, and their effects to health with particular interest on the association with cardiovascular disease.

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Sources of transfats and saturated fats

The high utilization of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils especially in the food industry has led to the increase in the daily consumption levels of trans-fats in many people. The stability and longer shelf life coupled with their semi solidity has ensured that the oils have gained preference in the preparation of fast foods and snacks. The trans-fats account for about three to five percent of all the calories consumed in the United States (Mozaffarian 1607). The increased consumption of animal products has resulted in the uptake in greater amounts of saturated fat. Preparation of dairy products and animal fats into various products have not only encouraged their uptake but also contributed largely in the development of medical conditions with long term adverse effects (Lokuruka 3). Lifestyle behaviors such as obesity, smoking and alcoholism have also predisposed the users into generally higher concentration of saturated fats. The changes in lifestyle behaviors has started taking root in third world countries thereby resulting in increasing incidences of CVD particularly among the young people. The sedentary lifestyle propagated by white-collar jobs and efficiency offered by urbanization and technology has contributed to the increase. Of particular importance is the role played by the change in eating habits with preference to fast and packaged foods (Mozaffarian 1604).

Effects of transfats and saturated fats

Cardiovascular diseases mainly refer to all forms of disease or condition that have detrimental effect on part or whole of the cardiovascular system. The diseases usually develop differently and their effects vary depending on their overall impact on the human health. The most common form of cardiovascular disease includes atherosclerosis, less occurring syphilitic and rheumatic heart disease and the general systemic hypertension. Several factors influence the pathological pathways occurring due to CVD. The physiology and the genetic makeup of the individual play a paramount role in accelerating the process. Other factors in the environment and the influence of psychosocial also affect negatively on the individual’s health. Currently, CVD rank as the leading cause of death surpassing other leading causes in the last few decades. More than 17 million people lose their lives yearly due to CVD with the figures expected to soar to about 25 million in the beginning of 2020, unless stringent measures are put in place to reverse this scenario (Mozaffarian 1605).

Recent evidence indicates that dietary fat has become an integral contributor to the high cases of high blood pressure. The most common biochemical reaction behind the occurrence of health problems involves the lipase enzyme. Research has shown that specificity of the lipase enzyme particularly to the cis configuration renders the effective metabolism of the transfats a difficult task thereby leading to accumulation in the serum (Mozaffarian 1604). The ineffectiveness in the digestion therefore results in the prolonged stay of transfats in the body thus resulting in the eventual deposition in the walls of the arteries. It is therefore worth noting that the high levels of saturated fat present in the dairy products and vegetables and cholesterol in animal fats contribute immensely in the rise in blood pressure (Lokuruka 12). High blood pressure occurs through the development of small plaques on the walls of the vessels thereby resulting in the narrowing and loses in elasticity of the vessels. In line with this, a fat rich diet may also increase the tendency of the development of arthrosclerosis thus promoting jump in blood pressure. The increased blood pressure may also lead are influenced the occurrence of other cardiovascular relate diseases. More importantly, meals that contain high levels of animal fats tend to influence the occurrence of acute effects particularly felt in the vascular tone. The vascular tone occurrence is also promoted by the decrease in the endothelium dependent vasodilation (Mozaffarian 1601).

Several studies indicate an increased risk of coronary heart disease especially in relation to rise in the consumption of transfats and saturated fats. The transfats elevate the level of serum lipids while promoting the occurrence of systemic inflammation. Moreover, the transfats lead to endothelial dysfunction while predisposing the individual to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (Aro et al 1423). Controlled experiments imply that the consumption of transfats considerably lowered the activity level of serum paraoxonase thereby leasing to the impairment in the functioning of the tissue plasminogen activator in relation to HDL cholesterol. On the other hand, systemic reviews denoted that there lacks significant relationship that the saturated fats cause an increase in cardiovascular diseases (Lokuruka, 8). That notwithstanding, studies and reviews have noted the combination of high cholesterol levels and saturated fats in the serum have the effect of increasing the possibility of the accumulation of atherogenic materials. The accumulation of the plaques in the arterial walls would generally cause the development of CVD (Mensink 1450).

Transfats therefore appear to cause the greatest burden in terms of coronary heart disease. In a review carried out in 2006, transfats consumption ranked as the leading risk factor to the development of CHD (Aro et al 1420). The evidence gathered asserted that the transfats had the greatest tendency of increasing the risk level to coronary heart disease when compared to the other macronutrients. A slight increase in the level of the transfats has the capacity of causing a substantial rise in CHD cases. Increasing the intake of calories of transfats origin by a margin of 2 % may result in the doubling of the risk (Mensink 1447). This was comparable to the effect caused by 15 % increase in calories of saturated fat origin. CHD brought about by transfats results in more than 80000 cardiac deaths in the United States annually (Aro et al 1423).

Control measures against the effects of saturated and transfats

The level of suffering and economic burden brought by the effects of increased consumption of saturated and transfats has led various stakeholders to recommend ways of reducing their intake. Considering the other health effects and CVD, nutritionists recommend the uptake of carbohydrates calories and the friendly polyunsaturated fats. Consumer preferences on fat free foods and the setting of optimal levels of transfats in the packaged foods have taken root. Health education on the accruing benefits has bore positive fruits since the consumers and the manufacturers have heeded the call to utilize alternatives in place of the partially hydrogenated oils (Mozaffarian 1612).

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The consumption of transfats and saturated fats has detrimental effects to health. Of particular importance, the level of incidences and mortalities brought to the society due to CVD. Transfats and saturated fats in naturally occurring foods cause harm particularly when taken in large amounts over a long period. Considering the wide range of studies and systemic reviews undertaken, the overly consumption of transfats do not confer any nutritional benefits to the individuals. While it may not be feasible to ban the utilization of hydrogenated oils, there is greater need to emphasis the importance of finding cheaper alternatives in a bid to protect the health of the public. Health education is therefore imperative in order to minimize the utilization of the transfats and saturated fats at homes while discouraging food restaurants from utilizing the same. Concerted efforts towards minimizing the usage of transfats will translate to substantial reduction in CVD thereby resulting in economic savings to the society and government. Health education targeting individualized action as part of realignment towards fat free foods is a sure way of minimizing transfats usage.

Works Cited

Aro, Ali, Jauhiainen Mile, Partanen Riesa, Salminen Iniha & Mutanen Minea. Stearic acid, trans fatty acids, and dairy fat: effects on serum and lipoprotein lipids, apolipoproteins, lipoprotein(a), and lipid transfer proteins in healthy subjects. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 65 (1997):1419-1426.

Lokuruka, Michael. Role of Fatty Acids of Milk and Dairy Products In Cardiovascular Diseases: A Review. African journal of food agriculture nutrition and development 7.1(2007): 1-18

Mensink, Robert, Pier Zock, Anise Kester & Manuc Katan. Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 77 (2003):1146-1155

Mozaffarian, Dariush, Katan Martijn, Ascherio Alberto, Stampfer Meir, Willett Walter. Trans Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease. New England Journal of Medicine 354 (2006):1601-13

Rosdahl, Caroline & Mary T Kowalski. Textbook of Basic Nursing.Ninth Edition. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007.

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