Nutrition: Fats Chapter 15

Reading Your Fats is Not So Tough


Benefitting from Blood Tests

One of the breakthroughs in diagnostic medicine was made possible when researchers identified the key fats that circulate through the bloodstream. Researchers eventually conducted large-scale studies that compared health outcomes with populations of people in which cholesterol (both LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and HDL, or “good” cholesterol) as well as triglycerides ranged from low to high. The results of these population studies enabled researchers to calculate a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. READ MORE

This information, however, was once lab test data that a doctor would see but might not share in detail because it was considered too complicated. Today, of course, many patients know their cholesterol and triglyceride levels, just as they know their blood pressure. And in fact, the more thoroughly people understand these numbers and are able to put them into context, the better they will be able to use this knowledge to maintain good health, improve health or lay the groundwork for prevention.

Part of the context for a person’s blood tests will be family history. What a patient has in common with parents or siblings when it comes to cholesterol and other blood fats could represent certain genetic tendencies. But it could also reflect a shared environment in terms of diet and other health habits. Understanding which factors are under a person’s direct control and which are not is a key step in managing health.

Recommendations on how often a person should have his or her blood tested for cholesterol and triglycerides will vary depending on the person’s age, sex and family history, as well as the person’s own medical history.

According to the American Heart Association: “Everyone over 20 years of age, regardless of previous high cholesterol history, should have a blood cholesterol test at least every 5 years. If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, and are controlling it with diet, you should be tested every year. Individuals taking prescription medications to control cholesterol levels, like statin drugs, may need to get their cholesterol tested at least twice a year to not only check cholesterol levels, but to also check liver function.” LESS


Towards Healthier Eating

Tests for blood fats will continue to get more powerful as scientists better understand the relationship between diet and fat metabolism. One of the goals that researchers have is to be able to predict who can benefit most from changes in diet. Whose cholesterol levels are most sensitive to dietary intake and whose are most resistant? Researchers will also continue to investigate the mechanisms by which certain fats are “good” and certain fats are “bad” and certain other fats pack an outsize impact, even in small quantities.

Fats Forward

Whatever future research reveals, however, nearly everyone will continue to agree on the fundamentals of healthful eating. “Eating well is not, never was, and never will be about deciding which nutrient class to abandon,” says Katz. “Eating well is, always was, and always will be about choosing the wholesome foods made up of all three nutrients classes.” READ MORE

The principles of balance, variety and moderation in the consumption of fats form the basis for a healthy diet. That means knowing which kinds of fats are in which food sources and then striving to minimize bad fats and maximize good fats. LESS

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.