LET SCIENCE GUIDE YOUR WAY TO...
By Dr Megan Chircop
Fat is our long term energy store. It is possible to derive much of your daily energy requirement from stored fat. However, oxygen is required to “burn” it, and the speed of energy production is relatively slow.
Fats are also essential structural components of all of the cells of our body (they make up cell membranes, and other membrane structures within cells). They form a vital component of the electrical “insulation” within the nervous system, particularly the brain and spinal cord. Fats are required for the production of certain hormones (signalling chemicals – e.g. androgens, oestrogens, progesterones etc.) and the secretions of oil glands in our skin (which help protect our skin and hair).
Eliminating all fat intake puts you at risk of vitamin deficiencies, whilst eating too much fat will limit how much other fuels (i.e. carbohydrate and protein) you can consume. There is currently a debate regarding the previously held dogma about the effects of a high fat diet. Until this is resolved, it is prudent not to significantly increase fat intake (i.e. no more than approximately 20-25g of saturated fat per day, or no more than 10% of total calories derived from saturated fat per day, and no more than 40% of total daily calories to be derived from all fats per day).
From a meal planning perspective, fat helps to slow carbohydrate absorption so that your energy levels are more sustained in between meals. Fat also contributes to a feeling of satiety after meals. Fat is also partly responsible for the pleasure we derive from eating a meal.
As you can expect, the main symptoms resulting from higher than needed fat intake are usually the result of low carbohydrate intake (see above), but might also include diarrhoea or loose bowel motions. The symptoms of persistently low fat intake might include low meal satiety (feeling hungry soon after meals), depression, anxiety, low sex drive, disturbed menstrual function, erectile dysfunction, rashes, dry skin, dry eyes, and dry /brittle hair.
Our main sources of fat are meat, fish/shellfish, dairy products, eggs, nuts, and oils. It is perhaps easiest to regulate fat intake by modulating the amount of vegetable oils and olive oil used in cooking and in condiments/dressings, as the other aforementioned foods are also sources of protein.
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Welcome. I am Dr Megan Chircop. I am a medical scientist and nutritionist with 20 years in medical research. As such, I have extensive knowledge and a thorough understanding of how the body works. I am able to simplify the science behind the way food fuels the body and mind to provide energy and nutrition needed to achieve optimal health and vitality. I am also a keen sportswoman, and have extensive knowledge of sports nutrition.
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