Saturated fat, the fat that can increase the amount of cholesterol produced by the body and has been directly linked to high blood cholesterol, is high in animal foods, such as processed meats (frankfurters and sausages) fatty cuts of red meat and dairy products.
However, certain plant oils, such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil are also high in saturated fat (see chart) because they are partially hydrogenated. The more hydrogenated the fat, the more saturated.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 19, 1989 Home Edition Food Part 10 Page 18 Column 3 Food Desk 3 inches; 88 words Type of Material: Correction
In the Rose Dosti story on oils and fats in the March 16 Food Section, we inadvertently gave out toll-free telephone numbers for the American Heart Assn. and the American Dietetic Assn. In lieu of telephone calls, both organizations prefer that the public write for additional information and send self-addressed stamped envelopes.
To contact the American Heart Assn. contact the local affiliate office or write to: American Heart Assn., National Center, 7320 Greenville Ave., Dallas, Texas 75231-9986, or American Dietetic Assn., Nutrition Resources Department, 216 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 800, Chicago, Ill., 60606-6695.
Palm kernel oil is slightly higher in saturated fat than palm oil.
Partially hydrogenated oils are generally found in processed food products, such as nondairy creamers, imitation sour cream, crackers, cereals, ice cream and certain frozen desserts, peanut butter and some margarines.
Liquid oils are least saturated, with canola oil, the lowest in saturated fat, the clear winner among them with only 6% saturated fat compared with 79% for palm kernel oil, the highest saturated oil. Like other vegetable oils, they do not contain cholesterol.
Effects of Stearic Acid
Saturated fats generally raise cholesterol. However, some fats, such as corn oil, which contains 13% saturated fat (7% higher than safflower or canola oils) and coconut oil, which contains more than 70% saturated fat, were found not to raise serum cholesterol levels as much as it was thought because of their prominent stearic acid composition, according to Margo L. Denke, MD, of the University of the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Denke's research centers on serum lipids, including cholesterol.
Stearic acid, one of the four fatty acids (others are lauric acid, myriustic acid and palmitic acid) that comprise saturated fat, was recently found not to raise serum cholesterol levels. Stearic acid is a fatty acid common in cocoa butter, the major fat in chocolate, as well as in beef and pork fats.
Denke also pointed out that monounsaturated fat was just as effective as polyunsaturated fat in reducing serum cholesterol levels.
Monounsaturated fats are found in olive and peanut oils, both of which are neutral in terms of cholesterol formation and neither prevent or cause cholesterol levels to rise.
"Based on these new dietary research findings, the American Heart Assn. and National Cholesterol Education Committee have endorsed a new diet that should contain less than 30% total calories in fat, with less than 10% in saturated fat (7% if 10% is too high), 10% in polyunsaturated fats with the remaining 10% or less in monounsaturated fat," she said.
Canola oil, the lowest saturated fat and highest unsaturated fat (primarily mono-unsaturated) of any edible oil, with moderate levels of polyunsaturates, is free of cholesterol, as are all vegetable oils. Canola is 94% saturated fat free. With only 6% saturated fat content, canola contains 30% less saturated fat than safflower or sunflower oils, 50% less saturated fat than corn and olive oil, and 60% less than soybean oil, the most commonly used vegetable oil in the United States. (See the cholesterol-fat content chart on this page.
Canola oil, now nationally available in the United States as Puritan Oil, is a cousin of the rapeseed plant that once was used to make lamp oil in ancient Asia. It was grown in Europe as early as the 13th Century and used as feed for cattle.
By the 20th Century, oil from rapeseed was adapted for use as a lubricant for steam engines. Later, during World War II, rapeseed oil became a valuable commodity for maintaining Allied naval and merchant ships. When enemy blockades cut off European and Asian sources of rapeseed, the Allies turned to Canada for fresh supplies. Canada became the leading exporter of rapeseed oil to the United States.
Used Popularly in Canada
About 40% of all oils used for cooking and salad oils in Canada are made of canola. The name \o7 canola\f7 was adopted by the Canadian seed oil industry to identify the oil recognized by the early 1970s for its nutritional benefits in reducing saturated fat in the diet.
Canola oil is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat contained in trout, halibut and albacore tuna, as well, have been found to lower serum cholesterol levels. They have also shown to be especially helpful in inhibiting the formation of blood clots, which can cause heart attacks.
The American Heart Assn. and American Dietetic Assn. suggest that consumers refrain from taking fish oil capsules, because they are a high source of fat. "Their absorption and utilization is also being questioned," said Tindle. Moderation is a key.
It's a mistake, says Tindle, for consumers to select an oil hoping for a major cure. "There is no quick cure, no magic. It's a matter of making significant and gradual dietary changes to include foods that are high in complex carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables and whole grains) and lower in total fats (including saturated and unsaturated)," she said.