Sep 08, 2001
NUMBER 6300-0

Research shows fats in moderation can be good for health
Copyright 2001 Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
Recent research shows some fats in moderation can be good for our health.
By Lisa Liddane
The Orange County Register
September 08, 2001, Saturday

In the '90s, you ate the bread but passed on dipping it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar at restaurants.

You chose chicken but ignored fatty fish such as salmon.

You learned that fat in food increases our risk for chronic disease.

It's time to recalibrate that thinking_more research shows that not all fats are alike.

Saturated and trans fat _ found in beef, pork, many pastries and cookies_continue to be harmful if you overindulge.

The stars of new research are unsaturated fats, such as those found in fatty fish and olive oil. When consumed in moderation, these can be good for us.

In an editorial appearing in the journal Circulation last week, Dr. Alexander Leaf, a professor at Harvard Medical School, reiterated that not all fats could increase our risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Some fats can reduce our risk of a heart attack, he said.

Here, registered dietitians, doctors and nutrition researchers answer questions about fats:

Q. Which fats are good for us?

A. They are unsaturated fats, sometimes called "good" fats by researchers. They are divided into two categories:

Polyunsaturated fats: Found in fatty fish such as salmon, albacore tuna and sardines, and oils such as corn, safflower and soybean.

Monounsaturated fats: Found in oils such as canola, olive, sesame and peanut, and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias and pecans.

Q. Why are they beneficial?

A. Polyunsaturated fats: These can lower LDL, the "bad" cholesterol_and raise HDL, the "good" cholesterol. These fats contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent abnormal heart rhythms, improve the functioning of the heart and reduce risk of blood clotting. Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and possibly rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions.

Much of the research on good fats centers on fish oils, some of which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year showed that women who ate more fish with omega-3 fatty acids had a lower risk of stroke. Last October, the American Heart Association modified its dietary guidelines to recommend eating more fish because of omega-3 fatty acids.

Monounsaturated fats: These can lower LDL and raise HDL. These fats are rich in nutrients, including protein. Some monounsaturated fats contain vitamin E, thiamin, zinc, folate, niacin and antioxidants that help us fight illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

Q. How can I use these fats in a healthy diet?

A. Use them to replace less healthy foods or those higher in saturated fat, said Linda Gigliotti, coordinator for the University of California, Irvine's Executive Weight Management Program.

_Eat two meals a week with fatty fish such as salmon, albacore, mackerel, lake trout, herring and sardines.

_Avoid fried, breaded fish or fish with a lot of butter or cheese, or smothered with sauces and dressings rich in saturated fat. Try fish that is baked, steamed or grilled.

_Substitute olive oil and balsamic vinegar for butter to go with bread.

_Use canola oil instead of lard for cooking or baking.

Q. Won't these fats increase the amount of fat in my diet and undermine my efforts to stick to a low-fat diet?

A. Not if you use these fats wisely and not if you pay attention to calories, said Andrea Pontello, bionutrition research manager at UCI's Clinical Research Center in Orange. These fats are not meant to be in addition to the recommended daily amounts of fat. They are the better fats to substitute for saturated fats and trans fats.

For example, you can choose grilled fish instead of a steak when you eat out, or salads with a little olive oil or a few walnuts instead of ranch dressing or bacon bits.

Calories count, so use nuts, olive oil and canola in moderation. Good does not mean gluttony, said Gail Frank, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association in Orange County.

Q. Can I take fish oil capsules to get my dose of omega-3 fatty acids?

A. It's better to get fish oil from fish, not from supplements, said Dr. William Averill, board member of the American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate. The association does not recommend fish oil capsules, except for people with severely high triglycerides and patients with pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and under the supervision of a doctor.

In general, it's best to get omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients from food, especially unprocessed food.

Q. What's my daily fat intake limit?

A. Healthy people should consume no more than 30 percent of total calories from fat. This means:

7 percent-10 percent of total calories from saturated fats

10 percent-15 percent of total calories from monounsaturated fats

About 10 percent from polyunsaturated fats

Q. Where can I get more information on unsaturated fats, including studies?

A. Contact the following:

American Heart Association at and (800) 242-8721

Journal of the American Medical Association at

American Dietetic Association at and (800) 366


(c) 2001, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).