An unsaturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there is at least one double bond within the fatty acid chain. A fatty acid chain is monounsaturated if it contains one double bond, and polyunsaturated if it contains more than one double bond. Where double bonds are formed, hydrogen atoms are eliminated. Thus, a saturated fat has no double bonds, has the maximum number of hydrogens bonded to the carbons, and therefore is “saturated” with hydrogen atoms. In cellular metabolism, unsaturated fat molecules contain somewhat less energy (i.e., fewer calories) than an equivalent amount of saturated fat. The greater the degree of unsaturation in a fatty acid (i.e., the more double bonds in the fatty acid) the more vulnerable it is to lipid peroxidation (rancidity). Antioxidants can protect unsaturated fat from lipid peroxidation.


[edit] Chemistry and nutrition

Amounts of fat types in selected foods

Double bonds may be in either a cis or a trans isomer, depending on the geometry of the double bond. In the cis conformation, hydrogen atoms are on the same side of the double bond, whereas, in the trans conformation, they are on opposite sides (see also Trans fat). Saturated fats are popular with manufacturers of processed foods because they are less vulnerable to rancidity and are, in general, more solid at room temperature than unsaturated fats. Unsaturated chains have a lower melting point, hence increasing fluidity of the cell membranes.

Although both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can replace saturated fat in the diet, trans unsaturated fats should be avoided. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats helps to lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in the blood.[1] Trans unsaturated fats are particularly risky because the double bond stereochemistry allows the fat molecules to assume a linear conformation, which leads to efficient packing (i.e., plaque formation). The geometry of the cis double bond introduces a bend in the molecule, thereby precluding stable formations (see specific fatty acid links above for drawings that illustrate this). Natural sources of fatty acids (see above) are rich in the cis isomer.

Although polyunsaturated fats are protective against cardiac arrhythmias, a study of post-menopauseal women with a relatively low fat intake showed that polyunsaturated fat is positively associated with progression of coronary atherosclerosis, whereas monounsaturated fat is not.[2] This probably is an indication of the greater vulnerability of polyunsaturated fats to lipid peroxidation, against which vitamin E has been shown to be protective.[3]

Examples of unsaturated fats are palmitoleic acid, oleic acid, myristoleic acid, linoleic acid, and arachidonic acid. Foods containing unsaturated fats include avocado, nuts, and vegetable oils such as canola and olive oils. Meat products contain both saturated and unsaturated fats.

Although unsaturated fats are conventionally regarded as ‘healthier’ than saturated fats,[4][dead link] the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation stated that the amount of unsaturated fat consumed should not exceed 30% of one’s daily caloric intake (or 67 grams given a 2000 Calorie diet). The new dietary guidelines have eliminated this recommendation at the request of the meat and dairy industries.[citation needed] Most foods contain both unsaturated and saturated fats. Marketers advertise only one or the other, depending on which one makes up the majority. Thus, various unsaturated fat vegetable oils, such as olive oils, also contain saturated fat.[5]

[edit] Role of dietary fats in insulin resistance

Incidence of Insulin resistance is lowered with diets higher in monounsaturated fats (especially oleic acid), while the opposite is true for diets high in polyunsaturated fats (especially large amounts of arachidonic acid) as well as saturated fats (such as arachidic acid), these ratios can be indexed in the phospholipids of human skeletal muscle and in other issues as well. This relationship between dietary fats and insulin resistance is presumed secondary to the relationship between insulin resistance and inflammation, which is partially modulated by dietary fat ratios (Omega3/6/9) with both omega 3 and 9 thought to be anti-inflammatory, and omega 6 pro-inflammatory (as well as by numerous other dietary components, particularly polyphenols, and by exercise as well, with both of these anti-inflammatory). Although both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory types of fat are biologically necessary, fat dietary ratios in most US diets are skewed towards Omega 6, with subsequent disinhibition of inflammation and potentiation of insulin resistance [6]

[edit] Membrane composition as a metabolic enabler

Cell membranes of mammals have a higher composition of polyunsaturated fat (DHA, omega-3 fatty acid) and a lower composition of monounsaturated fat than do reptiles. Higher polyunsaturated membrane content gives greater membrane fluidity (and functionality), commensurate with the higher metabolic rate of the warm-blooded species. In fish, however, increasingly cold environments lead to increasingly high cell membrane content of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, to maintain greater membrane fluidity (and functionality) at the lower temperatures.[7]

[edit] Component in different foods

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article unsaturated fat, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.