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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 124-128

Role of fats in a healthy diet

1 Staff Officer (Health), Headquarters Western Naval Command, Mumbai, India
2 Officer in-Charge, School of Naval health, INM, INHS Asvini, Mumbai, India

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0975-3605.203205

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Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and largely insoluble in water. All fats consist of fatty acids bonded to a backbone structure, often glycerol. Fats are the sources for fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. They provide energy and stability to many internal organs. The sources of fats are milk & milk products, eggs, meat, pork, beef, chicken, fish, nuts and vegetable oils. There is a probable causal link between intake of saturated fatty acids and type 2 diabetes and a possible causal association between total fat intake and type 2 diabetes. There is convincing evidence that high intake of Myristic & Palmitic acids and trans fatty acids contribute to an increase in risk for cardiovascular diseases. There is a convincing association for consumption of fish and fish oils and foods high in linoleic acid with reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. A “probable” level of evidence demonstrates a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases for alpha-linolenic acid, oleic acid, nuts (unsalted), plant sterols and stanols, and no relationship for stearic acid. Hence it is recommended that the total fat intake should be reduced to less than 30% of total calories, saturated fat intake should be limited to less than 10% of calories and trans-fatty acids eliminated. It is also recommended that diets should provide an adequate intake of Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs), i.e. in the range 6-10% of daily energy intake. Intake of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, should make up the rest of the daily energy intake from fats. These dietary goals can be met by limiting the intake of fat from dairy and meat sources, avoiding the use of hydrogenated oils and fats in cooking, using appropriate edible vegetable oils (avoid coconut and palm oil) in small amounts and ensuring a regular intake of fish (one to two times per week) or plant sources of alpha-linolenic acid. Preference should be given to food preparation practices that employ non-frying methods.

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