May 3, 2016

Answers FAQ

Fat and Fats FAQs

Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

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Q:What is metabolism?

A:Metabolism is defined as chemical reactions that take place in all living organisms in which molecules are broken down to produce energy, and also where energy is used to build substances needed by the cells. In the body, it's what helps us convert the foods we eat into energy.

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Q:What is the purpose of body fat?

A:The purpose of fat in our bodies is to control metabolism and immune function.

Fat plays various roles in the body including insulating the body and maintaining body temperature, protecting our organs, acting as an energy reserve, and helping us absorb certain vitamins.

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Q:What is hyperlipidemia?

A:Hyperlipidemia is defined as high levels of fat (lipids) in the blood.

This usually refers to high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Fats play an important role in the body's metabolism when levels are normal, but when fat levels get too high they can cause health problems including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which raises your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other vascular diseases.

Hyperlipidemia is caused by lifestyle habits such as poor diet, obesity, lack of exercise, and smoking. It can also be caused by medical conditions including diabetes, underactive thyroid, kidney disease and pregnancy. In some cases, hyperlipidemia has a genetic cause.

It is important to keep high cholesterol and high triglycerides under control. The first line of treatment usually involves lifestyle modifications including a healthy diet and exercise. In some cases you may need prescription medications to help regulate your levels of cholesterol

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Q:How many calories are in a gram of fat?

A:There are 9 calories in one gram of fat.

In contrast, one gram of carbohydrate or one gram of protein each contains just 4 calories.

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Q:People who are obese are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. True or false?

A:True.

Type 2 diabetes, also called insulin resistance, is a condition where the body does not use insulin properly. Type 2 accounts for 90% to 95% of all cases of diabetes and is generally considered a preventable condition. In contrast, in type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin at all and the illness cannot be prevented.

Being overweight or obese increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Being overweight or obese stresses the body, and hinders the body's ability to maintain blood sugar levels and it can cause the body to become resistant to insulin.

The good news is that type 2 diabetes is often preventable or reversible with weight loss and exercise.

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Q:Belly fat is worse than fat on the hips and thighs. True or false?

A:True.

Belly fat, also referred to as visceral or intra-abdominal fat, is worse for your health than fat around your hips and thighs. Most fat is subcutaneous (just beneath the skin), but visceral fat is deep within the abdomen, surrounding the abdominal organs. This type of belly fat disrupts the balance and functioning of certain hormones. This imbalance is linked to an increased risk for metabolic problems, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancers including breast cancer, and needing gallbladder surgery.

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Q:What is brown fat?

A:We have two main types of body fat, brown fat (which is also referred to as "baby fat") and white fat.

White fat is the predominant fat in the body that stores energy, insulates the body, and produces hormones. Brown fat helps produce heat, which is important in babies who are not yet able to shiver. Infants are born with reserves of this brown fat (about 5% of their total body mass) on the neck, upper chest, and shoulders and it was thought until recently that most of this fat disappeared by adulthood. It turns out that everyone has small stores of brown fat, and this fat helps burn calories.

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Q:How many calories are in a pound of fat?

A:One pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories.

he old rule of thumb for weight loss was that a person needed to burn 3,500 more calories than they consumed to lose 1 pound of body weight. Cut 500 calories per day from foods or exercise to burn that many calories to lose 1 pound. But new research has shown that while there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, the amount of calories an individual must burn to get rid of that same pound varies widely. The old 3,500 calorie rule didn't take into account gender, changes in eating and exercise habits, and changes in energy balance that occur when dieting. If you embark on a weight loss program the best results can be achieved with a combination of diet and exercise, but know that your body may need to burn more or less than 3,500 calories to lose a pound.

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Q:Think of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. What does the term "hydrogenated" mean?

A:The term "hydrogenated," as in hydrogenated vegetable oil, means hydrogen is added to the oil.

This process turns a liquid fat such as vegetable oil into a more shelf-stable, solid, and spreadable fat, such as margarine. Some oils are only partially hydrogenated, and in this process some monounsaturated fatty acids are converted to saturated fatty acids (trans fats) that are harmful and can raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.

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Q:Why would food manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil?

A:Food manufacturers use hydrogenation – adding hydrogen to vegetable oil – to increase the product's shelf life and to keep the intended flavors longer.

Manufacturers started using partially hydrogenated oils to replace animal fats because they are cheaper, more stable, and they tend to have a better taste and texture.

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