Friday, 7 September 2012

Fats That Can Help or Hinder Your PCOS

Thought I'd share this. 



Did you know that consuming the right fats can actually help to improve the symptoms of your PCOS?

As we discussed last week, bad fats can play a key role in the build-up of PCOS-linked androgens (male hormones) through excess androgen production by your adrenal glands. But replacing bad fats in your diet with good ones could bring about a significant improvement in your condition.

Like carbohydrates and protein in moderate amounts, fat is an essential nutrient, required by your body for key functions such as absorbing the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It's also an important energy source and vital for keeping skin and hair healthy and smooth.

Consuming the right fats can also actually lower your risk of PCOS-linked conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity while improving your cholesterol levels at the same time. That's because all fats are not created equal. In fact, it's not the total amount of fat in your diet that affects how much you weigh and makes you vulnerable to a host of diseases. What matters is the type of fats you choose (and, when it comes to shedding pounds, the total number of calories you eat).

Here's a breakdown of fats:


Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs): Found in plant foods like nuts, avocados, olive oil and canola oil, as well as poultry

MUFAs can actually lower cholesterol levels, and your risk of heart disease. A Journal of the American Medical Association study showed that replacing a carb-rich diet with one high in monounsaturated fats can do both ... and reduce blood pressure, too.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs): Found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, as well as corn and soybean oils

Like MUFAs, PUFAs have been shown to improve cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease risk. One type is omega-3 fatty acid, which is plentiful in some kinds of fish and not to be confused with omega-6 fatty acids, found in meats, corn oil and soybean oil. Research has found that Americans eat about 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3. Closer to four times as much is a healthier target. Substitute fish for meat whenever you can.


Artery-clogging saturated fats come from meat and dairy products. Saturated fats have been shown to directly raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Conventional advice has been to avoid them as much as possible.

However, a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in early 2010 found no link between saturated-fat intake and increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. Still, the Harvard School of Public Health, in a study published in March 2010, found that replacing saturated fats with an equal amount of polyunsaturated fats did indeed reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 19%.

Nevertheless, moderate amounts of saturated fats may not be so bad after all and they are certainly an important source of vitamins and minerals. Plus, some argue that coconut oil and palm fruit oil, which are plant-based sources of saturated fats, may actually be beneficial because their particular fatty-acid make-up means they are metabolized differently in the body. Stearic acid, found in animal products and in some foods such as chocolate, gets a pass because much of it is converted by the body into oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat.

Thus, saturated fats may be more neutral than we think. Yet although there are more and more scientific studies suggesting this is the case, there is, paradoxically, no broad consensus on this yet, especially among those designing dietary guidelines. The advisory committee for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests a reduction of saturated-fat intake to no more than 7% of daily intake.


This variety of fat is double trouble for your heart health.

Trans fat is the worst type of fat. Unlike other varieties, trans fat - also called trans-fatty acids - both raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol. High LDL in combination with low HDL increases your risk of heart disease, the leading killer of women as well as men. It's made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation, leaving the oil less likely to spoil. Using trans fats in the manufacture of foods helps the foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and have a less greasy feel. Commercial baked goods - such as crackers, cookies and cakes - and many fried foods, such as doughnuts and french fries - may contain trans fats. Shortenings and some margarines can be high in trans fat, which used to be more common. However, in recent years it has been used less frequently because of concerns over the health effects.

Food manufacturers in the United States and many other countries list the trans fat content on nutrition labels, but be careful. In the U.S. A government loophole allows food packagers to label anything with .5 grams of trans fat or less as "0g trans fat". When serving sizes listed are small, and you therefore eat several servings by their definition, this can be a big problem. Look for the words "partially hydrogenated" vegetable oil on the actual ingredients label. That's another term for trans fat.

It sounds counterintuitive, but "fully" or "completely" hydrogenated oil has no trans fat. Unlike partially hydrogenated oil, the process used to make fully or completely hydrogenated oil doesn't result in trans fat. Check your food labels.

Christine DeZarn

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