Fats - Saturated And Unsaturated - Trans Fats

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Fats - Saturated And Unsaturated - Trans Fats
Fats - Saturated And Unsaturated - Trans Fats
Video: Fats - Saturated And Unsaturated - Trans Fats
Video: Unsaturated vs Saturated vs Trans Fats, Animation 2023, February


Fats (lipids) are the ultimate source of energy. They have the highest calorific value and provide around 9 kcal (37 kJ) per gram, about twice as much energy as proteins or carbohydrates. Certain components of fats are important nutrients for the body - for example in the form of essential fatty acids. Adolescents and adults should consume a maximum of 30 percent of their daily energy requirement through fats. An excessively high total fat intake as well as an unfavorable pattern of fatty acids (“fat quality”) is associated with health restrictions, including severe obesity, increased blood lipid levels, high blood pressure or heart disease.


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  • What functions do fats fulfill in the body?
  • How high is the fat requirement?
  • The fatty acids
  • Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Trans fatty acids
  • cholesterol

What functions do fats fulfill in the body?

In addition to supplying the body with energy and essential fatty acids, fats also serve as a component of body structures such as cell membranes or as a starting substance for other biologically active substances. Fats counteract the loss of body heat and thus offer good protection against the cold. In addition, fat is a cushion and support element in the body, for example in internal organs such as the kidneys.

Dietary fats are carriers of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K), which are essential for the body. Without fats, the body cannot use them properly. The fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K are, moreover, themselves fat-like substances that cannot be produced by the body, ie they are also essential and must be taken in with food. Last but not least, fats carry flavors and aromas in food.

How high is the fat requirement?

According to the recommendations of the DA-CH nutritional societies (Germany, Switzerland and Austria, DA-CH reference values), adolescents aged 15 and over and adults should cover a maximum of 30 percent of their daily energy requirements with fats. In certain groups of people and in certain life situations, the fat content of the food can be higher: For example, in babies and small children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as during high physical activity.

Guide values ​​for fat intake
Age Percent (%) of daily energy intake
Infants (1 to under 4 years) 30 to 40
Children (4 to under 15 years) 30 to 35
Adolescents and adults (15 to 65 years and older) 30 a, b
Pregnant women from the 4th month 30 to 35
Breastfeeding 30 to 35
a People with increased energy needs (PAL> 1.7) may need higher percentages
In men with a standard energy value of 9.8 MJ (2300 kcal; PAL 1.4), b corresponds to 80 g of total fat.

Source: DA-CH reference values ​​for nutrient intake, 5th updated edition 2019.

Note The guideline values ​​per day are 80 g fat for men and 60 g fat for women and a maximum of 300 mg cholesterol.

You can find out more about all age groups and groups of people in the DA-CH reference values.

The fatty acids

Fats are characterized by a common chemical structure. The so-called fatty acids are an essential component and quality feature. Fatty acids differ among other things by their

  • Chain length (short and long chain fatty acids),
  • the degree of saturation (saturated or unsaturated fatty acids),
  • at which point they are unsaturated (e.g. omega-3, omega-6, omega-9) and whether they are
  • are vital for the organism (essential or non-essential).

Saturated fat

These fatty acids are not essential for humans, which means that the body can produce them itself from other food ingredients such as glucose (sugar) or proteins. Representatives of the saturated fatty acids are, for example, butyric, myristic, caprylic, capric, caproic, palmitic and stearic acid. Animal foods in particular contain these fatty acids, which are rather unfavorable for health, such as butter, whipped cream, lard, meat and sausage products. Only a few plant-based foods contain high amounts of saturated fatty acids, including coconut and palm kernel fat.

Overall, saturated fatty acids should make up less than ten percent of the total daily energy intake, which corresponds to a third of the energy supplied via fats. Saturated fatty acids can have an adverse effect on blood lipid levels.

Unsaturated fatty acids

These fatty acids are divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The body can only partially synthesize it from other food ingredients. Certain representatives of the unsaturated fatty acids are therefore essential and must be obtained through food. Overall, two thirds of the total fat intake should come from unsaturated fatty acids. Well-known representatives are, for example, palmitoleic and oleic acid (monounsaturated) and linoleic, arachidonic and α-linolenic acid (polyunsaturated).

Unsaturated fatty acids are mainly contained in vegetable foods such as vegetable oils, oil fruits (e.g. olives), nuts and seeds as well as in fatty fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel or herring). Overall, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (exception: trans fatty acids) can have a positive impact on health, especially with regard to blood lipid levels. In particular, the consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids instead of saturated fatty acids has a positive effect on the cholesterol level and can reduce the risk of coronary artery disease (CHD). Particular attention is paid to the polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids

The omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid and the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid are polyunsaturated fatty acids, both of which are essential. This means that the body cannot build them up itself and must be taken in with food. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in rapeseed, linseed, soy or walnut oil and in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, herring and local cold water fish such as char. Omega-6 fatty acids are contained in maize, sunflower, safflower and pumpkin seed oils, for example. Two other polyunsaturated fatty acids are of particular importance in the diet: These are the long-chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are contained in the above-mentioned fatty fish.

Omega-3 fatty acids can have a positive effect on blood lipid levels and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Omega-6 fatty acids can counteract the risk of fat metabolism disorders and coronary heart disease (CHD).

Trans fatty acids

Trans fatty acids belong to the group of unsaturated fatty acids, but in contrast to other unsaturated fatty acids, they are suspected of having harmful properties on the organism. Trans fatty acids are formed, among other things, during the hardening of fats - for example in food production in order to make products more durable and spreadable. When frying and heating in oil at very high temperatures, trans fatty acids can be formed. Trans fatty acids also occur naturally in food, they are formed by microorganisms in the rumen of ruminants. If trans fatty acids are consumed frequently, this can have an unfavorable effect on blood lipid levels. In addition, trans fats can potentially increase the risk of being very overweight (obese) and coronary heart disease.

Trans fatty acids can be found in baked goods, ready-made products, fast food products, nibbles and snacks, for example. The content can, however, vary from product to product. New production processes have already led to a reduction in the content of trans fatty acids. The “Austrian Trans Fatty Acids Regulation” has been in force in Austria since 2009. This prescribes certain limit values ​​in products. Trans-fatty acids must be identified on the packaging (eg with the remark “contains hydrogenated fats” or “vegetable fat, partly hydrogenated”).

You can find more information on the trans fatty acid regulation at www.ris.bka.gv.at. Here you can find information on trans fatty acids in sign language.


Cholesterol is a fat-like substance and has numerous important functions in the human body. It is needed in the body to build up steroid hormones (e.g. estrogen or testosterone), vitamin D and bile acid. It also serves as a building block for cell membranes and lipoproteins. Cholesterol can be formed in the body, but it can also be taken in with food. The substance is contained in animal products such as meat, offal, egg yolks, butter, as well as milk and milk products.

Today it is assumed that the cholesterol ingested through food only partially influences the cholesterol level in the blood (especially in people who are sensitive to cholesterol). Rather, the amount of total fats consumed and their quality, i.e. which fatty acids are contained, are more decisive.

Nevertheless, the guideline is still not to consume more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.

Further information is available from:

  • Diet tips for increased blood lipid levels
  • Overweight / obese diet

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