The many years of being told to eat low-fat foods means we’ve been conditioned into thinking eating any fat will be bad for us. But recently we’ve been advised that eating the right kind of fat is key to a healthy lifestyle. Scientists at LJMU have been looking at how certain components that we can include in our diet, such as the right oils and fats, could help us lower our risk of developing serious illnesses.
Tackling the ageing effects of obesity
Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), and more significantly, 2-hydroxyoleic acid, a synthetic derivative of oleic acid, which is found in olive oil, could work against the ageing effect of obesity. Dr Fatima Perez de Heredia from the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology was one of the authors on a recent paper published in Experimental Physiology who made the discovery. She explains:
“Obesity, or a high fat diet, can lead to changes in the immune system similar to those observed with ageing. This is the first study, at least to our knowledge, to suggest the efficacy of 2-hydroxyoleic acid for reversing obesity-associated immune alterations and improving oxidative stress that can damage our cells, proteins and our DNA leading to serious illnesses.
“These findings are useful as they help scientists understand the impact of obesity on our body’s ability to fight infection. Obesity affects one in four adults in the UK and can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, some types of cancer, and stroke.”
Choosing the right fat
Academics from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences offered their expertise on the BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor, running trials to discover how we can get more of the right fats like omega-3 into our diets and how much of a difference it could make to our health.
Sixty volunteers across Liverpool took part in the eight week trial. The results suggest that oily fish and omega-3 supplements are both good at providing the body with omega-3 fats – with the omega-3 fat levels in the blood cells of all the volunteers increasing for the better. This study backs up the government’s recommendation to eat fish twice a week, with at least one meal being an oily fish such as salmon or mackerel. So, whether you choose to take supplements or eat more fish, this study shows that sustaining a diet rich in omega-3 helps lower your risk of developing serious illnesses like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“Many people worry about eating fat, worrying it will clog up their arteries and lead to weight gain. But fat is an essential part of our diet, and there are some fats that our bodies need. Fats form an important part of every cell in our bodies, where they help ensure that our cells communicate with each other, which means our bodies can function as they should. Our trial suggests that oily fish and omega-3 supplements are both good at providing your body with omega-3 fats – in our limited timeframe the omega-3 fat levels in the blood cells of all the volunteers in those groups increased for the better.
“Ultimately, the choice is yours, but one thing is clear – we could all do with more omega-3 in our diets if we want to cut our risk of serious illness.”
How to get more omega-3 in your diet
Oily fish is an excellent source of omega-3. Try:
Be creative with your recipes, it doesn’t have to feel like a chore to get in your weekly oily fish meal. Check out the BBC food website for some recipe ideas.
Choosing omega-3 supplements:
Professor Close recommends the following advice when choosing supplements:
- check the label to ensure that the supplement contains enough DHA and EPA
- check the use by date and pick a supplement that has plenty of shelf life left
- look for accreditation badges as brands that have sought accreditation are likely to have good quality control in place
- store your supplements in a cool dark place and keep the lid tightly closed as exposure to light and air can cause the oil to turn rancid. You may also want to choose smaller bottles so that the capsules are exposed to light and air for shorter periods of time once opened
Interested in studying nutrition? Take a look at the nutrition courses available to study at LJMU.