International Blog Spotlight: Thailand

Dietary Fat Guidelines: Thinking Outside the Box
Patana Teng-umnuay, MD, PhD

While most of us crave and enjoy fatty foods, we simultaneously know that high fat diets are primary causes of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Yet recent studies have demonstrated that eliminating all fat from our diets will not improve blood cholesterol, reduce cardiovascular disease, or prevent obesity: our body can create its own fat from carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates such as sugar and white rice will raise blood glucose and stimulate insulin secretion; the insulin hormone turns sugar into fat. Hence, one of the principal reasons that people are overweight is due to the consumption of too many carbohydrates. Yet because fat is high in calories, if we overeat, we will ultimately gain weight.

Because studies have indicated that the levels of serum LDL-cholesterol is associated with coronary heart disease, people often try to avoid having high cholesterol diets. In 2015, however, the American Nutritional Society announced that high cholesterol diets do not increase the risk of elevated cholesterol or heart disease. The body is able to synthesize cholesterol from acetyl CoA, which is derived from an oxidation reaction of fat and carbohydrate. Therefore, consuming too many carbohydrates and saturated fats can increase cholesterol synthesis—and the risk of cardiovascular disease—while cholesterol in diet inhibits cholesterol production.

In order to choose the ‘right’ type of dietary fat, people must be educated surrounding the various types of fatty acid. Saturated fat is a type of fat that primarily comes from red meat, poultry, and dairy products—yet this fat contains many toxins, and can be considered to raise the risk of cancers. Plant-based saturated fats, such as coconut oil and palm oil, are enriched with medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs), which can passively diffuse from the GI tract to the portal system, and can convert more rapidly into energy than animal fats. Therefore, consuming moderate amounts of coconut milk will not raise blood LDL-cholesterol.

Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been chemically processed into solid fat, such as margarine. During the past few decades, trans fats have been used as a replacements for animal fats, because of the falsely propagated idea that they are healthier. Yet numerous studies and research indicate that consuming large quantities of trans fats will increase the ratio of LDL-C to HDL-C, and raise the risk of coronary heart disease—more than saturated fats. Trans fats have been banned in the United States since 2015, and recent studies show that there have been declining statistics stroke and myocardial infarction.

In terms of vegetable oil, it is critical to understand its components. The omega-6 fatty acid is the source of atherogenic and inflammatory eicosanoids—an underlying cause of most chronic diseases including diabetes, hypertension, and atherosclerosis. Dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil and omega-9 fatty acids in olive oil displace omega-6 fatty acids in the plasma membrane, which results in the production of less atherogenic and anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. Both types of these fatty acids are linked with a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease, dementia, and cancers.

Dr. Teng-umnuay received his medical degree with first class honors from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand in 1986, with board board certification in Internal Medicine and Nephrology. He then earned his PhD at the University of Florida in Molecular Cell Biology in 1998. Dr. Teng-umnuay is a well-known lecturer on nutraceutical supplements, stem cell biology, and Anti-Aging medicine. He is a faculty member of the Anti-aging and Regenerative program of Dhurakij Pundit University, and also serves as a consulting physician for S Medical Clinic and Phyathai 2 Hospital in Thailand.Dr. Teng-umnuay is currently the vice-president of the American Academy of Anti-aging Medicine, Thailand.