Fats are classed according to their fatty acid content as either Saturated (Animal) or Unsaturated, depending on the chemical bonds between the individual molecules. Unsaturated fats may be Mono-unsaturated (olive oil) or Poly-unsaturated (margarine). Cooking or heating can convert unsaturated fats to saturated ones. Fats may be solids (butter, margarine, lard) or liquid (oils).
Fats are the storage form of energy in our body, being hidden away under our skin and in and around organs until the body needs them. They have an important role in forming cell walls and hormones, the "chemical messengers" in the body.
Fats are an incredibly rich energy storage facility, producing almost 10 times the energy of protein or carbohydrate when metabolised. 10-20% of the normal body weight is fat.
Different fats also contribute to the total amount of fat in the bloodstream, although even without dietary intake the liver still manufactures fats. In the blood, cholesterol (the carrier form of fat) can deposit in the walls of arteries in a process known as Atherosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries") which restricts bloodflow and causes heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular disease. Different fats in the blood have different roles in this process:
All these different types of fat, and cholesterol, can be measured to help determine an individual's risk of heart disease.
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