Fatty Foods and Their Harmful Effects on the Heart

  • Posted on: Apr 29 2022
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It’s a well-known fact that fatty foods contribute to a person’s risk of heart disease and cardiovascular illnesses like atherosclerosis. Most people are aware that a diet high in saturated and trans fat predisposes them to high cholesterol, heart disease, and other health issues over time, but what about in the short term? 

An Experiment on High-Fat Foods and the Heart

Does consuming fatty foods have harmful effects on the heart right after consumption? Research suggests it does. In a study by the Medical College of Georgia, ten healthy men were divided into two groups. 

In one group, each man was fed a milkshake that was extremely high in saturated fat. Each shake was calculated so that the amount of fat was proportionate to the consumer’s body weight.

In the other group, each of the men ate a meal that had the same number of calories as the milkshakes but was low in fat. Four hours after the meals, biochemical tests of the men were done that focused on their red blood cells. 

How a Milkshake Affected the Body

Normally, red blood cells are smooth. However, after the men consumed the high-fat milkshakes, their red blood cells developed spikes on them. These spikes make the red blood cells damaging to blood vessels, which sets the stage for heart disease. 

In addition, an increase in an enzyme called myeloperoxidase (MPO), which is implicated in heart attacks and atherosclerosis was confirmed in each man. 

Changes in white blood cells were also noted, with levels of pro-inflammatory monocytes increasing. The milkshake also inhibited the ability of good HDL cholesterol to protect the arteries from damage.

How High-Fat Diets Harm the Heart

Trans fat is the most damaging type of fat people consume. Also called trans-fatty acids, trans fats are responsible for raising bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol. In addition to increasing a person’s risk of heart disease, they also raise the risk of type 2 diabetes and blood vessel disease.

When bad cholesterol (LDL) increases, it can build up in the walls of a person’s arteries, making them rigid, stiff, and narrow. Good cholesterol (HDL) picks up excess cholesterol in arteries and takes it to the liver so it can be processed and eliminated.

When these deposits within arteries rupture or tear, blood clots can form and block the flow of blood to a person’s heart or brain. When the heart is involved, this results in a heart attack. When blood is blocked from flowing to a part of the brain, a stroke occurs.

What Should You Eat?

Trans fats and saturated fats must be limited to improve or maintain a person’s cholesterol levels and heart health. While trans fats raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, saturated fats raise total cholesterol.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy diet consists of 20–35% of a person’s total daily calories derived from fats. Saturated fat should be kept at less than 10% of total daily caloric intake. 

Trans fat, particularly the type found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, has no known health benefits, so your intake should be as low as possible.

Although banned by the FDA, trans fats are permissible if a food product contains less than 0.5 grams of it per serving. Foods that contain this amount of trans fat can claim that they have “no trans fat” in them.

Foods that commonly have this dangerous type of fat hiding in servings include:

  • Frozen pizza
  • Non-dairy coffee creamer
  • Baked goods
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Refrigerated canned dough
  • Fried foods
  • Shortening
  • Stick margarine

Cardiovascular Wellness offers comprehensive care to patients throughout Nassau County and all surrounding areas. If you’re concerned about your heart health or are experiencing any symptoms you believe might signal a heart issue, trust Cardiovascular Wellness for cardiac monitoring or any other tests you may need. Get in touch with our office today.

Posted in: Heart Disease

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