Thursday, July 16, 2009

Saturated fat, cholesterol and a change in habit...

I recently took a company-sponsored physical examination to see where I am in terms of my health. The results surprised me a bit, let me explain.

I've been generally healthy since childhood, and I don't eat a lot of fatty foods. I rarely drink alcohol, and I don't smoke. I'm a thin person (5'10.5", ~145 lbs) and I find it extremely difficult to gain body mass.

Fatty Numbers
My doctor told me that I have high amounts of triglycerides. My reading's 201 mg/dL, just above the normal 30-200 mg/dL limit. According to wikipedia, it is the main constituent of vegetable oil and animal fats, and high levels are normally linked to heart disease.

I also had high readings of VLDL cholesterol. Like triglycerides, VLDL accelerates the risk of heart disease like atherosclerosis. I got 40 mg/dL, and normal is 0-35 mg/dL.

The doctor said that these numbers are associated with ingesting fat. I was quite surprised to hear these numbers, as I don't eat fatty foods in general. In fact, my mom meticulously drains out the oil in the food our family eats. The doctor said it could be because of genes, but I don't think my family has this disease in our lineage.

So I went back home and tried to observe the food I normally eat. One day when I was eating biscuits (I love biscuits, my mom makes sure we always have biscuits at home to eat as snacks, I eat quite a lot per week.) I took a look at its label. We have Monde's Bread Stix at that moment.
What I found? Bread Stix has a very high amount of saturated fat - 23% of the recommended daily allowance (based on a 2000 calorie diet)

I went to the supermarket and checked out various other cookie/biscuit brands. Except a few, they all have extremely high saturated fat amounts.

So what's saturated fat?
I did some research, and found a great resource in this NY Times article. According to that article, saturated fat is "the biggest dietary cause of high LDL levels ("bad cholesterol"). When looking at a food label, pay very close attention to the percentage of saturated fat and avoid or limit any foods that are high. Saturated fat should be limited to 10% of calories. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats. They are also found in some vegetable oils -- coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils. (Note: Most other vegetable oils contain unsaturated fat and are healthy.)"

Eating too much saturated fat, NY Times shares, heightens the risk of heart disease. Saturated fat leads to the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries (or atherosclerosis).

Reducing daily fat intake helps reduce the risk factors.

Change in habits...
Right now, I'm doing my best to avoid biscuits. I'll know soon if my VLDL and Triglyceride numbers decrease.

And from another POV, we're saving a bit more money because we no longer buy biscuits. :)

I'm wondering now - is it safe for kids to eat stuff like this?
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