Proteins and carbohydrates are just two of the three macronutrients that everyone needs for good health. Fat is third. Fat provides a lot of energy, and calories from fat can literally save lives in some situations.
Do cancer patients have to worry about reduced fat intake and weight loss? Generally speaking, if you suffer from loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting over time in cancer treatment, you really don’t need to worry about fat in your diet or weight control.
This does not mean that every type of fat is healthy for you. All-trans fats are bad, but some trans fats are worse. If you can’t avoid all foods with trans fats, consider avoiding the worst.
Which makes trans fat a bad fat
The bloodstream “throws” fat at the cells just as a shooter could crack an arrow. A long, straight-arrow enters the cell with ease. This causes minimal disruption in the flow of electrical charges across the cell surface. A bumpy, short arrow, or, worse, a bumpy long arrow, crashes into the protective sheath of a station and interrupts the flow of information across its surface.
Some dietary fats are long and straight, others are short and lumpy, yet some are a combination. The “bumpiness” of a fatty acid depends on the arrangement of its carbon atoms, that is, whether the carbon “axis” of the arrow is cis- i. At the atomic level, fatty acids are built up of parallel carbon chains. Cis-fatty acids have parallel carbon lines.
C – C – C – C – C – C
C – C – C – C – C – C
Relatively healthy cis-fatty acids enter the cell neatly without disturbing the cell membrane. Cells are difficult to absorb. But they do not impair the health of the cell.
On the other hand, trans-fatty acids contain carbon atoms at different points of their chains that other molecules remove the chains in the cell mucosa.
C – C – C – C – C
C – C – C – C – C
A short, bent arrow can cause minimal damage to the station, but a long, bent arrow is devastating. Trans-fatty acids are formed during the production of margarine, which allows storage and uses in solid form, during frying vegetable oils and bacterial action in the stomachs of cows, sheep, and goats. Beef, lamb, and chevron (goat meat) contain much smaller amounts of trans fatty acids than margarine or fried foods.
The worst of bad fats
Generally speaking, all-trans- (“bent” or “bumpy”) fatty acids are bad, but some trans-fatty acids are worse. Trans fatty acids with 16 carbons or less tend to slip into the cell without damaging the membrane. At least one study has shown that victims of sudden death are more likely to have deposits of these so-called 16: 1 fatty acid (1 refers to the number of double bonds between carbon atoms) than healthy individuals. Supposedly a “good” 16-carbon cis-fatty acid, palmitic acid, a fatty acid found in palm oil, is actually more likely to be associated with sudden death than any “bad” trans-fatty acid!
Fatty acids 18: 1
Fatty acids 18: 1, 18-carbon fatty acid with a single “fold” in the carbon chain, are also found in abundance in the hearts of victims of sudden death. Foods that supply these dangerous fatty acids include:
▪ Chocolate chip cookies made from cottonseed and/or soybean oil
▪ Chocolate chip cookies with cream fillings
▪ Commercial taco shells
▪ Glazed donuts
▪ Milk chocolate coated cookies made of caramel
▪ Popcorn made from soybean oil (although low-fat varieties contain 80 percent less 18: fatty acids)
▪ Potato chips fried in an oil mixture (but not chips fried in only one type of oil)
▪ Shortening, especially if made from soybean oil (28 times the fatty acid content of lard 18: 1)
▪ Snack crackers made from cottonseed oil, refined coconut oil, or soybean oil
By comparison, lard, pure butter, pork crusts, hot dogs, tortilla chips, pudding, and white bread, none of which are healthy foods (and none are recommended for your daily diet), are better your heart.
Margarine is especially harmful to heart health.
Margarine made from soybean oil contains 22 times the amount of pure lard of 18: 1. Margarine made from corn oil has 23 times the proportion of this dangerous fatty acid. Cottonseed margarine is even worse because it contains 24 times more fatty acid than 18: 1 in lard. A study of women with breast cancer University of Massachusetts School of Medicine found that women who ate the most margarine and similar foods were likely to die 17 to 129 percent at each disease stage.
Some fats are even worse for general health. An 18-carbon fatty acid can also have two double bonds. These 18: 2 fatty acids are even more harmful to heart health, like fatty acids with 18 carbons and one double bond because they have two “kinks” that can be “caught” in the cell membrane. Trans- 18: 2 fatty acids are found in pizza, fried chicken, and cookies.
These fatty acids are the most harmful to heart health – and at least one epidemiological study has been able to predict the risk of sudden death by consuming pizza, fried chicken, and commercially prepared cookies. These fatty acids are also found in cottonseed and soybean oil margarine and shortening and chips fried in cottonseed or soybean oil.
Some trans-fatty acids are not so bad for you
Trans-16: 1 fatty acid are almost as bad as longer-chain 18-fatty acids, although they are less than 1/10 percent of their food. Trans-16: 1 fatty acid are found in tiny amounts in burgers, sausages, and turkeys used in meat for lunch. Because they are not as long as 18: 1 fatty acid, they are less likely to “get stuck” in the cell mucosa and are more likely to “bounce.”
Supposedly healthy cis-16: 1 fatty acid with a straight chain, however, are much more likely to contribute to arrhythmia than their longer cousins who “slide” across the membrane. They are actually worse for heart health than the fatty acids found in donuts, chocolate chip cookies, and commercial popcorn. Cis 16: 1 fatty acids occur in the highest concentrations in chicken skin and visible fat in turkey. These foods contain less than 1/5 the concentration of heart-damaging fatty acids like margarine and in much lower concentrations in lard and beef bologna.
In short, banned food products for people who have cancer are margarine, crackers, commercially prepared cookies, chips fried in soybean oil, donuts, and, to a much lesser extent, chicken skin, pizza, cold cuts, and any ground poultry, unless non-greasy. (That is, do not eat minced turkey containing minced turkey skin.) Note what is not on this list: Butter, most fried foods, most meats, dairy products, and desserts, occasionally eaten in moderation. Many people have other health reasons to avoid these foods, but overcoming cancer is not one.