10 types of saturated fats reviewed

The health effects of saturated fats are a controversial issue.

In the past, it was believed that saturated fat was a major cause of heart disease. Today, scientists are not so sure.

However, one thing is clear: saturated fat is not a single nutrient. It is a group of different fatty acids with different effects on health and metabolism.

This article analyzes in detail the most common saturated fatty acids, their effects on health and dietary sources.

What is saturated fat?

Saturated fat is one of the two main classes of fat, the other unsaturated fat.

These groups differ slightly in their chemical structure and properties. For example, saturated fat is generally solid at room temperature, while unsaturated fat is liquid.

The main dietary sources of saturated fats are fatty meat, lard, tallow, cheese, butter, cream, coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter.

All fats are made up of molecules called fatty acids, which are chains of carbon atoms. The different types of saturated fatty acids can be distinguished by the length of their carbon chains.

Here are the most common saturated fatty acids in the human diet:

  • Stearic acid: 18 carbon atoms long

  • Palmitic acid: 16 carbon atoms long

  • Myristic acid: 14 carbon atoms long

  • Lauric acid: 12 carbon atoms long

  • Capric acid: 10 carbon atoms long

  • Caprylic acid: 8 carbon atoms long

  • Caproic Acid 6 carbon atoms long

It is rare to find other saturated fatty acids in the diet.

Saturated fatty acids having less than six carbon atoms are collectively known as short chain fatty acids.

These are produced when the intestinal bacteria ferment the fiber. They are created in your intestine from the fiber you consume and can also be found in small amounts in some fermented food products.

Bottom line: Saturated fatty acids are one of the two main categories of fat. Common dietary saturated fatty acids include stearic acid, palmitic acid, myristic acid and lauric acid.

How does saturated fat affect health?

Most scientists now accept that saturated fats are not as unhealthy as previously supposed.

The evidence suggests that they do not cause heart disease, although their exact role is still being debated and investigated (1, 2).

However, replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, such as omega-3s, can reduce the risk of heart attacks (3, 4).

This does not necessarily mean that saturated fats are not healthy. It simply suggests that certain unsaturated fats are protective, while saturated fats are neutral.

In comparison, replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates does not provide any health benefits or even detrimental to the blood lipid profile. This is a measure of the levels of lipids in the blood, such as cholesterol and triglycerides (5).

Although it is clear that some saturated fats can raise the "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the association between cholesterol levels and heart disease is a bit more complex than that.

For example, saturated fats raise the levels of large particles of LDL cholesterol, which are not as strongly associated with heart disease as those that are smaller and denser (6, 7).

For more information on the subject, read this article.

Bottom line: Saturated fats are not as harmful as previously believed. The growing evidence suggests that there are no strong links between saturated fats and heart disease.

1. stearic acid

Stearic acid, which consists of 18 carbon atoms, is the second most common saturated fat in the American diet (8).

Compared with carbohydrates or other saturated fats, stearic acid reduces LDL "bad" cholesterol slightly or has neutral effects. This suggests that it can be healthier than many other saturated fats (9, 10, 11).

Research shows that stearic acid is partially converted into oleic acid, a healthy unsaturated fat, within the body. However, according to some estimates, the conversion rate is only 14% and may not have much relevance to health (12, 13).

The main dietary source of stearic acid is animal fat. Stearic acid levels are usually low in vegetable fat, with the exception of coconut oil, cocoa butter and palm kernel oil.

Stearic acid is considered a healthy saturated fat.

It does not seem to increase the risk of heart disease. This seemed to be true even in a study of people whose intake of stearic acid constituted up to 11% of their total caloric intake for 40 days (9).

Bottom line: Stearic acid is the second most common saturated fat in the American diet. It seems to have neutral effects on the blood lipid profile.

2. Palmitic acid

Palmitic acid is the most common saturated fat in plants and animals. It has 16 carbon atoms long.

In 1999, palmitic acid accounted for approximately 56.3% of total saturated fat intake in the United States. UU (8)

The richest dietary source is palm oil, but palmitic acid also makes up about a quarter of the fat in red meat and dairy.

Compared with carbohydrates and unsaturated fats, palmitic acid increases the levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol without affecting the levels of "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (9, 11, 14).

High levels of LDL cholesterol are a well-known risk marker of heart disease.

However, not all LDL cholesterol is created equal. The most accurate markers of heart disease are the presence of a large number of LDL particles and small, dense LDL particles (15, 16, 17).

Although palmitic acid increases total LDL cholesterol levels, this is mainly due to an increase in large LDL particles. Many researchers believe that high levels of large LDL particles are a minor concern, but some people disagree (6, 16, 18).

In addition, when other fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, are consumed at the same time, they can compensate for some of the effects of palmitic acid on cholesterol (19).

Palmitic acid can also affect other aspects of metabolism. Studies in both mice and humans indicate that a diet high in palmitic acid can negatively affect mood and reduce physical activity (20, 21).

Several studies in humans suggest that eating higher amounts of palmitic acid reduces the amount of calories burned, compared to eating more unsaturated fats, such as oleic acid (22, 23, 24).

These aspects of palmitic acid need to be further studied before clear conclusions can be drawn.

Bottom line: Palmitic acid is the most common saturated fatty acid, and constitutes more than half of all saturated fats consumed in the United States. UU Increase LDL cholesterol levels without changing HDL cholesterol.

3. myristic acid

Myristic acid consists of 14 carbon atoms.

The consumption of myristic acid causes a significant increase in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol compared to the consumption of palmitic acid or carbohydrates. However, it does not seem to affect HDL cholesterol levels (11, 25).

These effects are much stronger than those of palmitic acid. However, like palmitic acid, myristic acid appears to increase the levels of large LDL particles, which many scientists consider least disturbing (6).

Myristic acid is a relatively rare fatty acid, which is not found in large quantities in most foods. However, certain oils and fats contain decent amounts.

Although coconut oil and palm kernel oil contain relatively high amounts of myristic acid, they also contain other types of fats, which may offset the effects of myristic acid on the lipid profile in the blood (26).

Bottom line: Myristic acid is a long chain saturated fatty acid. Increases LDL cholesterol more than other fatty acids.

4. Lauric acid

Lauric acid has a length of 12 carbon atoms, which makes it the longest of the medium chain fatty acids.

Increases total cholesterol levels more than most other fatty acids. However, this increase is due in large part to an increase in "good" HDL cholesterol.

In other words, lauric acid reduces the amounts of total cholesterol relative to HDL cholesterol. These changes are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease (27).

In fact, lauric acid seems to have more beneficial effects on HDL cholesterol levels than any other saturated fatty acid (11).

Lauric acid constitutes approximately 47% of palm kernel oil and 42% of coconut oil. In comparison, other oils or fats that are consumed frequently contain only small amounts.

Bottom line: Lauric acid is the longest medium chain fatty acid. Although it significantly increases total cholesterol, this is due in large part to an increase in HDL cholesterol, which is beneficial to health.

5-7. Caproic, Caprylic and Capric Acid

The caproic, caprylic and capric acids are medium chain fatty acids (MCFA). They range from 6 to 10 carbon atoms in length.

Their names are derived from the Latin "capra", which means "female goat". Sometimes they are known as capra fatty acids, due to their abundance in goat's milk.

The SCFAs are metabolized differently to the long chain fatty acids. They are more easily absorbed and transported directly to the liver, where they are rapidly metabolized.

Evidence suggests that MCFAs may have the following benefits:

  • Weightloss: Several studies indicate that they can slightly increase the amount of calories burned and promote weight loss, especially compared to long-chain fatty acids (28, 29, 30, 31, 32).

  • Increased sensitivity to insulin: There is also some evidence that MCFAs increase insulin sensitivity, compared to long-chain fatty acids (33).

  • Anticonvulsant effects: SCFA, especially capric acid, may have anticonvulsant effects, especially when combined with a ketogenic diet (34, 35, 36).

Because of their potential health benefits, MCFAs are sold as supplements, known as MCT oils. These oils generally consist mainly of capric acid and caprylic acid.

Capric acid is the most common of these. It constitutes around 5% of the palm kernel oil and 4% of the coconut oil. Small amounts are found in animal fat. Otherwise, it is rare in food.

Bottom line: Capric, caprylic and caproic acids are medium chain fatty acids with unique properties. They can promote weight loss, increase insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of seizures in certain epileptic patients.

8-10. Short chain fatty acids

Saturated fatty acids containing less than six carbon atoms in their chains are known as short chain fatty acids (SCFA).

The most important SCFAs are:

  • Butyric acid: 4 carbon atoms long

  • Propionic acid: 3 carbon atoms long

  • Acetic acid: 2 carbon atoms long

SCFA are formed when beneficial intestinal bacteria ferment the fiber in the colon.

Their dietary intake is minimal compared to the amounts of SCFA produced in the colon. They are not common in food and are only found in small amounts in milk fats and certain fermented food products.

SCFAs are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with fiber intake. For example, butyric acid is an important source of nutrition for the cells lining the colon (37).

The types of fiber that promote the formation of short chain fatty acids are known as prebiotics. They include resistant starch, pectin, inulin and arabinoxylan (38, 39).

To learn more about the potential health benefits of SCFAs, read this article.

Bottom line: The smallest saturated fatty acids are known as short chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are formed when friendly bacteria ferment the fiber in the colon. They have many potential health benefits.

Bring the message home

Not all saturated fats are the same. Its effects on health vary according to type.

Although certain types of long-chain saturated fat can raise your "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, there is no solid evidence to show that any of them cause heart disease.

Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/saturated-fat-types


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