Fats and Lipids: What Are They?

The consumption of trans fats is associated with an increase in systemic inflammation and, with it, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. We'll tell you more about fats and lipids in this article.
Fats and Lipids: What Are They?

Last update: 15 August, 2020

As you’ve probably already heard, it’s important to make sure you include fats and lipids in your diet. This is because these nutrients have several different functions within the body. Avoiding consuming fats altogether could endanger your health, as your body would be unable to control a number of different hormonal and homeostatic processes.

As such, it’s important that we all consume lipids on a daily basis. However, not all types of fat offer the same nutritional value.

For example, mono and polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy nutrients. And while there’s still some debate around the nutritional value of saturated fats, trans fats are widely known to be bad for your health. In this article, we’ll explain why fats and lipids are so important, and how much of them you should consume.

Fats and lipids are a source of energy

Although most cells prefer to use glucose as an energy source, you don’t necessarily need to eat foods that are rich in carbohydrates to keep your blood glucose at a healthy level. Using a series of physiological reactions (which take place in the liver) your cells are able to convert fats to glucose in order to produce energy. This means that fat is a vital energy reserve for the body.

Nowadays, people are starting to question whether or not we need carbohydrates in our diets. Recent scientific literature has shown that it’s possible to lead a healthy lifestyle with a diet that’s high in fat.

Some scientists have also suggested that the ketogenic diet could be beneficial for preventing diseases such as Alzheimer’s, as stated in an article published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 

Many animal products contain saturated fats.

Some vitamins need fats and lipids

There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Vitamins that fall into the second category need fat to allow them to be stored and transported around the body.

Some of these vitamins, such as vitamin D, play an important role in our metabolism. According to a study by the European Journal of Endocrinology published in 2018, a vitamin D deficiency can cause problems such as decalcification if left untreated.

Other fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin E, are powerful antioxidants. Thanks to its antioxidative power, a high intake of vitamin E has been shown to help prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Without the right amount of fat in your diet, it’ll be impossible for your body to absorb these vitamins effectively and meet your daily nutritional needs. Ensuring you consume a sufficient amount of fat will reduce the risk of you becoming ill in the future.

Not all fats are made equal

Mono and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in oily fish, vegetable oils, and nuts, are considered healthy. This includes fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to prevent a number of cardiovascular disorders. This essential nutrient also has powerful antioxidant properties which are highly beneficial to your health.

At the other end of the spectrum, we find trans fats. These are obtained when vegetable oils are heated to extremely high temperatures. They’re commonly found in processed foods and are known to have inflammatory properties. Needless to say, experts highly recommend avoiding them as much as possible.

Scientific research has linked the consumption of these types of fatty acids with an increased risk of complex and metabolic diseases. As such, it’s best to limit your consumption of trans fats.

An unhealthy diet.

Saturated fats, which are present in many animal products, have been widely classified as harmful for a number of years. Recently, however, some have started to question the impact saturated fats have on our health. While there’s still some controversy surrounding the topic, there’s a significant amount of evidence to suggest that they may be important for our bodies – in moderation, that is. As a result, many recommend consuming saturated fats on a regular basis, albeit with caution.

Fat and lipids, an essential nutrient

Fats, together with proteins, are the nutrients that perform the widest array of functions throughout the body. They participate in a number of different hormonal processes and help to ensure sufficient uptake of vitamins. What’s more, some even have anti-inflammatory properties which are essential for the cardiovascular system.

As a result, these essential nutrients should form a key part of your diet on a daily basis. Restricting your consumption of fats can have negative consequences on your health. Although experts do recommend limiting the intake of foods that are rich in trans fats, other lipids must be included in the diet on a regular basis.

Finally, when it comes to saturated fats, it’s best to proceed with caution. While they may form an important part of our diets, until experts can determine the long term effects these fats have on our health, it’s best to eat them in moderation.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rusek M., Pluta R., Ulamek Koziol M., Czuczwar SJ., Ketogenic diet in alzheimer disease. Int J Mol Sci, 2019.
  • Chiodini I., Bolland MJ., Calcium supplementation in osteoporosis: useful or harmful? Eur J Endocrinol, 2018.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.