A Fat Lot of Good!

Fat is Back!

This isn't a title one expects from me as fat isn't generally associated with healthy living. The "Food Programme" on Radio 4 last week, titled "A Fat Lot of Good" revealed how scientists have come up with data showing that saturated fats aren't the demons we are all led to believe.

Dr. Michael Mosley has recently looked into how the composition of saturated and polyunsaturated fats change when heated with food. He collected oils after cooking and sent them off to a laboratory for analysis. The results showed that some oils produce high levels of dangerous aldehydes.

Different oils produce these aldehydes in varying quantities, (not all aldehydes are bad for you). The aldehydes produced from oils being heated to high temperatures are believed to be related to an increased risk of heart disease, some types of cancer and some neurodegenerative diseases, (Alzheimer's and Parkinson's for example),.

In this research, sunflower and corn oil came out quite badly as they are quite unstable at high temperatures, producing high levels of aldehydes. Olive oil produced far less. Saturated fats such as dripping, butter and goose fat are much more stable when heated to high temperatures and very few aldehydes were produced.

All oils and fats produce high levels of aldehydes when reheated and polyunsaturated fats, (nut and seed oils fall into this category), are generally unstable at room temperature and in sunlight and so are best stored in a cool cupboard.

We hear about how a Mediterranean diet, with its lashings of olive oil, is good for us but people on the Mediterranean tend to steam most of their vegetable then drizzle on the olive oil afterwards thereby avoiding heating it at all.

Any oil used for cooking should ideally be cold pressed, from mechanical rather than chemical extraction. You can usually find the method used in the small print on the label.

There has also been a lot of research done on how the consumption of seed and nut oils has risen and that of fish has decreased and how this is adversely affecting the chemical and electrical properties of cell membranes in our bodies.
For more on this topic and how the demon 'Lard' is coming back into fashion what this space!

Last update: November 12, 2015