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  • Markb

Fat and The Nutrition Facts Label

Last week we started to unravel the mystery of 'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition' with a discussion and understanding of the Nutrition Facts Label. Today we will continue that discussion focusing on the first ingredient on that label, the all-inclusive FAT.

The Nutrition Facts Label keeps Fat pretty simple. Saturated Fat and Trans Fat. Often you will see 'optional' Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats.

The inclusion of only Trans Fat and Saturated Fat follows the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) established guidelines that state 'the only ingredients 'required' to go on a label are those that have an impact on common health issues: weight control, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and many others.

But this simplicity maybe a little misleading and counterintuitive. Because, in general, relative to disease and health, Fats may be one of the most complicated of the three macronutrients we eat.

Fat is a necessary human nutrient. We need healthy fat to live. Fat gives your body the energy it needs to work correctly. Fat keeps your skin and hair healthy and helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K, the so-called fat-soluble vitamins. Fat also fills your fat cells and insulates your body to help keep you warm.

But too much of any single nutrient, including fat, especially the bad fats, can have far-reaching health implications: heart and cardiovascular disease, obesity, and many others.

So if there are good fats, bad fats, and in between fats, what can you deduce from such a simplified FAT statement on the Nutrition Facts Label, and how does that number apply to you?

First, what are Trans Fats and Saturated Fats? Are they a good, bad, or in-between? Are they a problem, and where do they fit into the 'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition' equation.

In 2018 the FDA put industrially put trans fats on its list of banned foods. That should tell you something about Trans Fats. Industrially produced Trans fats, or artificial, are Hydrogenated Oils. Hydrogenation changes the structure of the oil, so it becomes hard at room temperature. A fat that is hard at room temperature is excellent for baking and shelf life but deadly for the human body.

There are naturally-occurring trans fats, those produced by some animals and found in foods made from them (e.g., milk and meat products). These types typically comprise 2–6% of the fat in dairy products and 3–9% of the fat in beef and lamb. However, several reviews have concluded that a moderate intake of these fats does not appear harmful in small quantities. Yogurt, as an example, has what is called ruminant trans fats or dairy trans fats. Unlike artificial trans fats, ruminant trans fats are considered beneficial. The '0' percent noted on the Nutrition Facts Label allows up to 0.5% of any nutrient. Therefore, you may find up to 0.5% ruminant trans fats when the label states '0'.

'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition' products generally do not include any sources of trans fats, so the amount will usually be '0'.

Saturated fat and Trans Fat are both hard at room temperature. The difference is trans fats contain double bonds between the carbon atoms of their fatty acid chains, while saturated fats do not contain double bonds. This 'difference' is part of what makes Trans fats so deadly for the human body. Saturated fats can cause higher cholesterol levels in the body, but not all saturated fats are bad, though, as long as consumed in moderation.

Saturated fats do occur naturally in many foods, such as beef, lamb, pork, poultry, cream, butter, and cheese. Some plant-based oils, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil, also contain Saturated Fat. Any fat solid at room temperature has a higher saturated fat content than fats that are liquid at room temperature. For example, coconut oil has an appreciably higher saturated fat content than olive or canola oil.

And don't forget, many different saturated fats play essential structural roles in the body and have particular benefits to energy metabolism, cell structure, immunity, intestinal health, and metabolic health.

The American Heart Association, the FDA, and most nutrition guidelines state that a regular diet can contain between 20-35 % fat. And it is recommended that this should include no more than 5% to 6% of those fat calories from saturated fat. For example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fat.

As with all nutrients on the Nutrition Facts label, those calories noted in the Nutrition Facts are for a single-serving size. That single serving is the amount people 'typically' eat and drink in a day. It is essential to know that single-serving does not necessarily address what is right for you. The typical serving and the amount of fat you can consume are proportionate to your lifestyle, your overall diet, your exercise routine, and anything else specific to you. Once you have determined your fat requirement, you can calculate, based on the information about the serving size on the label, to arrive at the "serving size" that fits your personal nutrition needs.

Now that we understand the Nutrition Facts Label and Fat, to pick that perfect 'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition' product or any food product we are considering consuming, we need to interpret the ingredients list. Please continue following our OTC Sports Nutrition Blog to analyze different ingredient lists and what those ingredients mean to you.

As you look at your lifestyle, your overall diet, your exercise routine,

and why you are using the OTC product, you will be confident you are choosing the correct OTC Sports Nutrition supplement. Informed OTC nutrition choices will help you meet your immediate sports nutrition needs and overall individual health needs and priorities.

Please feel free to email with any questions you may have on this post or questions in general on 'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition.'

I look forward to continuing our study of 'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition' with you.

Mark B


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