Saturated Fat vs. Trans Fats – Know The Difference

Saturated fat and trans fatty acids must be avoided. Neither of them are healthy fats, nor will they help you to lose weight. Trans fats are rightfully seen as bad elements, and need to be minimized in order to assure proper nutrition. However, you may want to learn more about the differences between these two types of fats.

Trans Fats

Trans fatty acids are commonly known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Even though trans fats are also present in cow’s milk and other animal fats from ruminants, the main source is represented by vegetable oils such as:

  • Shortening
  • Margarine

These are cholesterol free, but are more dangerous than dietary cholesterol.

Saturated Fatty Acids

Saturated fats abound in:

  • Eggs
  • Lard
  • Butter
  • Whole milk
  • Red meat
  • Chocolate
  • Solid shortenings
  • Palm oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Palm kernel oil

As you can see, not only foods of animal origin are rich in saturated fats. The vegetable oils that contain such fats need to be avoided so that blood cholesterol levels are maintained low.

Differences Between Trans Fatty Acids and Saturated Fat

First of all, these two types of fats have different structures. Since saturated fats do not feature double bonds and cannot have trans- configuration, they cannot be trans fats. In fact, saturated fats can only display a single bond. Thus, only unsaturated fat (either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated) can have trans- configurations. In addition to that, fat molecules that display a triple bond cannot be trans, as this type of bond implies only one configuration.

Secondly, they affect total blood cholesterol levels differently. Saturated fats increase the high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) levels, while trans fatty acids lower these levels. Regarding the low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol), both types of fat seem to affect it in the same way. More specifically, they both increase bad cholesterol levels. However, you are recommended to focus on heart healthy foods, rich in unsaturated fats when following a low-cholesterol diet, so that coronary heart diseases are prevented.

The differences between saturated fatty acids and trans fats do not stop here. While saturated fats occur naturally in our bodies, as well as in many foods, trans fats are mainly obtained while processing food.

Diabetics need to be concerned about the trans fatty acids intake, too, since trans fats inhibit insulin binding. On the other hand, saturated fats do not allow this process to go on.

Trans fatty acids represent the main cause of numerous affliction, such as arterial inflammation. This develops when the C-reactive protein levels get higher than usual. In contrast, saturated fats do not promote the synthesis of this protein.

Enzymes are also affected by these fats in different ways. For instance, trans fatty acids influence the activity of such enzymes as delta-6-desaturase, since they are not produced by your body. Saturated fats, on the other side, occur naturally in the body and hence, will not affect in a negative way the function of such enzymes.

While trans fatty acids suppress the function of the immune system and help in the development of numerous diseases, saturated fatty acids will fight bacteria, viruses and protozoa. As observed, saturated fats are required for certain bodily functions, while trans fats are totally unnecessary. However, since both affect in a negative way bad cholesterol levels and do not promote weight loss by any means, they should be equally avoided.


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