What role does dietary fat play in the human body?

Margaret Floyd
Nutrition & Dietetics
Quality is paramount in dietary fats for several reasons. For one, the nutritional value of a quality fat is superior to a low-quality, refined, or modified version. Take butter that comes from a pastured cow. This butter contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has anticancer properties, helps prevent weight gain, and stimulates muscle growth. This nutrient is virtually absent in cows fed grain or processed feed. Also, toxins tend to accumulate in fat. This means that if the animal has a high toxic burden from consuming pesticide-laden feed or has received high doses of antibiotics and hormones, that toxic burden is going to be stored in its fat, which we will then eat.
Eat Naked: Unprocessed, Unpolluted, and Undressed Eating for a Healthier, Sexier You

More About this Book

Eat Naked: Unprocessed, Unpolluted, and Undressed Eating for a Healthier, Sexier You

Eat Naked with Margaret Floyd for a Sexier You Are you fed up with counting calories? Confused by all the diet hype? Want to eat delicious, real food and look and feel great? Leading...
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Your body uses dietary fat for many purposes besides storing energy. Fats are composed of fatty acids, which your body uses to make hormones and other important compounds. You also need fat in your diet to help you absorb certain vitamins -- so-called "fat-soluble" vitamins such as vitamins A and D. But you need only a small amount of fat each day for these necessary body functions. Adults only need about 2 tablespoons of fats and oils from all sources.
Yogi Cameron Alborzian
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
According to Ayurveda, we must eat a balanced diet that includes the consumption of natural oils like olive oil, sesame oil, almond oil, mustard oil, coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter), and avocados. Like with any food, they must of course be consumed in moderation, but consuming at least some of these foods will help to ensure the proper lubrication of the joints as well as regular movement of the bowels. Some people are constitutionally predisposed to a more oily body (oily hair, oily skin, etc.), and therefore require less.

But generally, as long as dietary fats aren't consumed in excessive quantities, they can help to keep the body sturdy and nourished.
Lipids also known as fats, is the most concentrated source of energy in the diet. One gram of fat yields nine calories. They supply more than twice the calories per gram versus a carbohydrate or protein. Fats also act as carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. By aiding in the absorption of vitamin D, fat helps you get enough calcium. That makes calcium more available to the tissues, particularly to the bones and teeth. Fats are also important for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A. Fats are involved in the following: cellular membrane structure and function, precursors to hormones, cellular signals, and regulation and exertion of nutrients in the cell.

Fat deposits surround, protect and hold in place organs, such as the heart, liver, and the kidneys. Fat is used as an insulator for any kind of environmental temperature changes and it is also preserves body heat. Dietary fat prolongs the digestion process by slowing the stomach's secretions of hydrochloric acid, thus creating a longer lasting sensation of fullness after a meal. Dietary fat initiates the release of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), which contributes to satiety.

Most of the fat we consume in our diet is ingested in the form of triglycerides. Triglycerides are made up of a glycerol with three fatty acids attached. These fatty acids differ from one another in two ways: chain length and degree of saturation. Saturation refers to chemical structure. The more unsaturated the fat, the lower its melting point and the more likely it is to become a liquid at room temperature. A saturated fatty acid is one that carries the maximum number of hydrogen atoms, leaving no points of unsaturated. Unsaturated fatty acids can be divided into two types: mono and polyunsaturated fats found in food contain a mixture of the three kinds of fatty acids.
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine

Dietary fat plays an important role in the body. First, fat is the most concentrated source of calories because it provides 9 calories per gram. Carbohydrates and proteins provide less than half that amount, at 4 calories per gram each. Second, fat is the preferred energy source to fuel the body. Third, fats are used in the body as structural components in cell membranes and as the backbone for hormone-like compounds known as prostaglandins.

Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

More About this Book

Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

From the bestselling authors of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, the most comprehensive and practical guide available to the nutritional benefits and medicinal properties of virtually everything...

Continue Learning about Fats

Fats

At 9 calories per gram, fats can add up quickly in your diet, yet experts recommend that you get only 7% of your calorie intake from fat. Fats also affect your cholesterol, and there are both good and bad fats. The best kind of fa...

ts are called unsaturated fats, and can be found in oils like olive and canola oils, nuts and seeds. These fats can help your body get rid of cholesterol. Saturated fats often have had hydrogen added to them to make them more solid. Other saturated fats are found in cream, butter and meats. They can raise your blood cholesterol. Its wise to learn which is which and check nutrition labels to make proper choices.
More

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.