Good Fats, Bad Fats & Inflammation: How Different Dietary Fats Affect Inflammation in the Body by Susan Masterson, PhD
Inflammation’s central purpose is to come to the body’s aid when an injury occurs. It involves an intricate communication system of chemical messengers throughout the body, which can be triggered in a number of ways.
When something injures us, inflammation kicks in so the cells of the immune system can come to the rescue and start the healing process ASAP. The brilliance of this process is that it our body knows something is going on, and it occurs automatically without our consciously having to do anything or even knowing it’s happening.
It’s great for the short-term needs we have, but when it goes on and on it becomes a real problem. Uncontrolled inflammation is linked to things like heart attacks, dementia and autoimmune disorders (to name a few).
Good Fat Vs. Bad Fat
In light of the “fat is bad”/”fat is good” debate we’ve been seeing, I’m here to tell you they are both right. It all depends on what type of fat, and how much you’re eating. Now, without doing a whole post on types of fat and how they affect health, I’m going to cut to the chase.
- Artificial trans fats are bad. In particular, steer clear of industrial trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats. We find these in many processed foods in the grocery store because manufacturers alter products in a way that allows them to not spoil too soon. There really is nothing good nutritionally about them, so avoid them.
- Omega 6 fatty acids are necessary, but in small amounts only. Many foods with healthier fats also contain omega 6, so eliminating it entirely would be both difficult, and cause deficiency in other needed nutrients. Experts also say we have it throughout our bodies and our cells need it to function, but the overwhelming evidence is that it should be in small proportion as compared to omega 3 fatty acids. The moral of the story? Don’t fret about getting small amounts of it, but cut back if you’re eating too much.
- Omega 3 fatty acids are considered “good” fats. Studies have consistently shown a trend toward omega 3s reducing inflammation. While they’re good for you, don’t go overboard. Fats contain more calories per gram than other macronutrients, so too many will still lead to weight gain and the problems that come with it. Just make sure the fats you do eat are the right ones!
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