‘Neutral’ fat isn’t as harmless as it soundsThe fact that Koreans on average have a higher fat concentration in their blood than most Westerners might surprise many people.
While the American Heart Association has been urging Americans for decades to limit their fat consumption to under 30 percent of their daily consumption of calories, Koreans on average barely break 20 percent. Thus the paradox: How did Koreans wind up having more fat in their blood?
The answer lies in neutral fat. According to Jo Hong-geun, a professor at Yonsei University in charge of research on aging, Westerners have an average of 70 milligrams of neutral fat per deciliter of blood, while Koreans have 120 milligrams.
There are two kinds of cholesterol in our bodies, LDL and HDL. Those shouldn’t be confused with saturated or unsaturated fats. Neutral fat powers our internal organs. It’s stored in the stomach; those with big bellies are large consumers of neutral fats.
Normally, the consumption of pork, chicken, beef, butter, fried food, cooking oils or other saturated fat increases the level of cholesterol and neutral fat in one’s blood. In addition, drinking alcohol and eating foods with high carbohydrate contents will cause one’s neutral fat level to rise. The consumption of carbohydrates and alcohol adds to the enzymes that generate neutral fat.
The major sources of energy for Koreans are rice (coming in first), instant noodles (second), pork (third) and soju (sixth). Koreans eat an average of 2.2 bowls of rice a day. Rice and noodle are sources of carbohydrates; pork has high saturated fat and soju contains alcohol ― a lot of it. All these raise the level of neutral fat in consumers.
Nutritionists believe genetic factors also contribute to the neutral fat concentration in one’s blood. As a result, one of every three Korean adults has more than 150 milligrams of neutral fat per deciliter. The World Health Organization and the American Heart Association have both issued warnings about high levels of neutral fat. When one’s neutral fat level rises, the chance of arterosclerosis (the hardening of arteries) also increases. Neutral fat generates LDL cholesterol, which is bad for your vascular health, but it also helps disintegrate HDL, which is good for your overall health.
Those with high levels of neutral fat should take precautions against heart disease or stroke. Diabetes patients must be even more cautious: 75 percent of deaths among diabetes patients are related to heart attacks. Neutral fat and cholesterol are two major causes of cardiac failure. Diabetes patients have high levels of neutral fat because they cannot control the creation of the fat in their liver.
Those who have 150 milligrams or more of neutral fat per deciliter of blood should change their eating habits. Avoid eating animal skin, vegetable oil, cake, pastry, cheese and muffins. Animal skin often contains a large amount of fat, as do cakes and pastries. It’s better to boil or bake foods rather than roast or fry them. It’s also important to refrain from drinking alcohol. Eating bacon, chicken wings or blood sausage along with alcohol also raises the level of neutral fat significantly. Diet and exercise are a must.
One out of five Korean adults has more than 200 milligrams of neutral fat per deciliter of blood, classifying them as hyperlipidemia patients. Hyperlipidemia, diabetes and heart disease patients usually take medicine. Those who tried diet improvement treatment for three to six months and did not see much progress are also advised to take medicine, which usually requires a prescription.
by Park Tae-kyun
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