What Is The Difference Between Fat And Cholesterol?
Both fat and cholesterol are essential to the body, but they are not the same thing and both are good and bad. Here’s the difference between fat and cholesterol, and what you need to know about them.
“Fats serve two purposes. Robyn Goldberg, a nutritional therapist at Ask About Food in Beverly Hills, California, says, “Fats enable our bodies to function and help us feel satisfied with food.” When your diet includes fats, they not only help stabilize blood sugar levels and control inflammation in the body, but they also help protect organs and transport fat-soluble vitamins.
Because fats play such an important role in the body, the truth is a little more complicated than “fats are bad for you” or “fats are good for you.” It is important to include healthy fats in your diet while limiting fats that can cause health problems.
“Dietary fat is a general term that covers many types of fats (or lipids) consumed in the diet,” says Sarah Patton, RD, a member of the clinical nutrition team at the Deborah Hart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, N.J.” The term “fat” includes triglycerides, saturated fats (solid fats at room temperature, such as butter and coconut oil), unsaturated fats (liquid fats at room temperature, such as olive and canola oils), sterols and any type of lipids (or fats) found in foods.
According to the Mayo Clinic, triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. When you eat, your body converts the extra calories into triglycerides. Triglycerides are stored in fat cells until your body needs more energy, such as between meals. High triglyceride levels can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
“Dietary cholesterol is the most common steroid in the diet.” Cholesterol is found in the fat content of animal products such as butter, egg yolks, meat, whole milk and poultry. Cholesterol is important to our bodies because it helps make bile salts.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that your liver produces cholesterol naturally, but you can also get it from your diet. There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is considered “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol. High levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) can lead to heart disease.
Types of cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol: HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). Lipoproteins are made up of fats and proteins.
(1. HDL) HDL: HDL is known as the “good cholesterol” because it transports cholesterol from the body to the liver. HDL helps eliminate excess cholesterol, which is much less likely to end up in your arteries.
(2. LDL) LDL: LDL is known as the “bad cholesterol”. As cholesterol levels increase, atherosclerotic plaques form in the arteries. This increases the likelihood of blood clots forming in the arteries. If the clot ruptures and blocks an artery in the heart or brain, it can cause a stroke or heart attack. Plaque buildup can also reduce the blood and oxygen supply to major organs. In addition to heart attacks and strokes, lack of oxygen to organs and arteries can lead to kidney and peripheral artery disease.
The difference between fat and cholesterol
“After decades of research, it’s clear that fat and cholesterol are linked to heart disease in complex ways, but we don’t yet fully understand them,” says Dr. Carrie Lamb, co-founder and medical director of the Lamb Clinic in Tustin, California.” What we do know is that there are good and bad fats, just as there are good and bad cholesterol. Good fats and bad cholesterol are important nutrients that you need every day to fight aging and maintain optimal health.
Instead of restricting dietary cholesterol in the traditional way, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean proteins, nuts, seeds and liquid vegetable oils. Doing so naturally reduces intake of saturated fats, which can increase bad LDL cholesterol, according to the AHA’s January 2020 scientific recommendations, Circulation.
According to the federal government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, foods high in saturated fat include processed meats, margarine, whole milk, coconut oil and some snack foods such as crackers. The dietary guidelines state that you should limit your saturated fat intake to 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. For example, if your daily caloric intake is 1,700 calories, 170 of those calories should not come from saturated fats.
On the other hand, foods that contain unsaturated fats, or high healthy fats, include salmon, olive oil, avocados and most nuts. According to federal dietary guidelines, replacing saturated fats in the diet with these healthy fats can help lower LDL in the blood and the risk of heart disease.
Fats provide nutrients and calories, but not cholesterol. Fats and cholesterol are produced in foods and are synthesized primarily in the liver. However, fats are taken in together in the intestines. Since the blood is mainly water, these molecules are called lipoproteins and are carried in water-soluble carriers.
- One out of three adults has high cholesterol.
- High cholesterol can be inherited.
- Bad cholesterol is caused by saturated fats, which are found in cheese, butter and red meat. Dietary sources rich in saturated fats should only be consumed in very small amounts.
- Fats can help promote vision and brain development in infants and children.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
- How do fats affect cholesterol?
Answer: Dietary fats can raise total blood cholesterol and LDL levels, especially saturated fats and trans fats. Replacing polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats with certain saturated fats (especially olive and canola oils) can lower blood cholesterol levels. High levels of HDL cholesterol may also reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Is cholesterol a fatty acid?
The answer is yes, it is a fatty acid. Cholesterol is unsaturated alcohol in the steroid family and is an important component of the cell membranes of all animal cells. Triglycerides are the major lipid component of animal dietary fats, including fatty acid esters of glycerol.