Masterclass: The Hard Facts of Mono & Poly Unsaturated Fats YOU need to know!

In part 2 of my vlog  reviewing the Hammer Nutrition Articles, Demystifying Fat Part 1 & Part 2  my focus pocus was on Saturated Fat and the debunking of this stable, clean burning and energy dense fat which actually is a good guy painted as a villain. Make sure to watch or read it because it could and should alter your health trajectory for the better.   

In today’s article, I want to finish my review of Demystifying Fat Part 2 and augment this great article with critical information and context, so you can possess the knowledge you need to navigate your health journey as well as the grocery store aisles!

Introducing MUFA’s and PUFA’s

MUFA and PUFA are both the acronyms and scientific slang for Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids respectively. . .yep, both are a mouthful of syllables nobody wants to repeat nor write more than once hence MUFA’s & PUFA’s.  

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)

As the article indicates, MUFA’s are known for their health benefits with Olive Oil being the best known with other recommended sources rich in MUFA’s being Avocado, nuts, dairy and animal fats. I also want to add Sunflower Seed Oil to the list. These MUFA’s don’t require heavy processing to extract the oil thus are considered not only as safe but healthy. 

But there is a catch. While not nearly as fragile and prone to oxidation as PUFA's certain MUFA’s are prone to oxidation and go rancid easily. This is why olive oil rarely comes in a clear bottle. Instead it comes in a green or brown bottle or even a can for the lower quality olive oils. Sunflower oil is even more prone to oxidation and rancidity. The reason? Plant based MUFA sources tend to be a blend high in PUFA’s, while animal based sources of MUFA’s tend to be a blend high in stable Saturated Fats. My real world tips are: 

  1. Taste test a Virgin Olive oil from Europe with one from California or Australia. You can literally taste the difference. Almost all of the olive oil coming out of Europe has some level of oxidation hence rancidity. This is because olives have been a crop in the Mediterranean for thousands of years, so much of the crop is still hand harvested on marginal hilly land and takes hours if not days to be pressed.   Whereas, in California and Australia where the cost of labor is high and the crop is relatively new, the olives are harvested mechanically and pressed within a few hours of harvest. 
  2. Do the same with Sunflower oils. Find a high quality, freshly pressed sunflower seed oil and compare the taste with an older press and/or lower quality and trust your taste buds….they know! 
  3. Avoid the MUFA’s which are heavily marketed as Heart Healthy like corn oil, vegetable oil, and Canola (read Con-ola oil, which is a rebranding ploy by the Canadian Oil Association, due to the marketing hurdles associated with calling it what it really is, Rape Seed Oil). These oils are, as stated, highly processed and contain a significant amount of PUFA’s which are not only unstable but the type of PUFA’s you don’t need. 
  4. Animal based sources of MUFA’s are in a blend of fats higher in Saturated Fats they tend to resist oxidation and rancidity, so this includes cheese, butter and bacon fat, duck fat, etc.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA)

PUFA’s have been elevated to a Hero status as “Heart Healthy ''. 

But are they really? . . . The unfortunate reality is the vast majority of “Heart Healthy” food items in your grocery store are the opposite. They are the very foods that, when consumed daily, lead to a variety of health challenges which can include heart disease due to their inflammatory nature.   “Heart Healthy” PUFA vegetable oils are as healthy for you as a box of “Heart Healthy” sugary cereals.

This topic is infinitely complex, contextual and nuanced, which is why we here at OFM (Optimized Fat Metabolism) does the deeper dive so you don’t have to. 

So, let me make myself clear, I am not slamming PUFA’s because they have an important role in your health but, as you can see, this is a minefield to navigate and precisely why I am doing this video and a big reason for the original development of the OFM Program. 

The Upside of PUFA's

PUFA’s are much more chemically unstable and biochemically reactive relative to MUFA’s and naturally saturated fats,. This biochemical reactivity has both an upside and downside. The upside being PUFA’s are critical players in composing and maintaining that “Lipid Bilayer '' of the cell wall, as well as an almost infinite set of biochemical reactions within that Lipid Bilayer important to maintain life.

The Downside of PUFA's

The downside however, is too many or the wrong type of PUFA’s in your diet means an excess of fragile, easily oxidized lipids are hanging out to get oxidized or, worse, glycated to a glucose molecule to create a Reactive Oxygen Species or ROS commonly known as a “Free Radical”.   Subsequently  oxidized to create a cascade of inflammation and toxins resulting in the endothelial damage that I talked about in my previous post -  this is the damage cholesterol and saturated fats get blamed for. And this is a “Big Why” for optimizing your fat metabolism.

The Benefits of Optimizing Your Fat Metabolism

You see when your body is prioritized and optimized to burn fat for fuel, you metabolically eliminate the excess PUFA’s and glucose hanging out with no purpose in life and getting together to wreak havoc. This is sort of how it works with PUFA’s & Glucose, which is one reason why OFM makes physical activity an essential part of the program . . . physical activity is kind of like making sure there are after school activities for kids so both don’t just “Hang out” and get into trouble.

Dr. French’s article does a great job of listing and describing the types of PUFA’s in their many forms, so I will add just a bit of information and some context for real world application. It is impossible to go down every rabbit hole when it comes to PUFA’s so hang with me and you’ll be glad you did: 

  1.  I want to go back to my Goldilocks analogy of “just right”. Except for the Trans Fats and Hydrogenated Vegetable oils (like Crisco), which are not naturally occurring, all of the PUFA’s listed play a role in your health and performance, not too little, not too much . . . just right. That “just right” is a constantly moving target based upon you as an Individual not as a commodity. 
  2. Due to the chemically reactive and fragile nature of PUFA’s, it is better to err on the side of “Less is More”.  For one thing, if you are consuming a whole foods diet composed of a mix of animal and plant based fresh food sources you will be getting plenty of various PUFA’s so, through simple awareness, you can optimize your PUFA intake through conscious dietary choices or supplementation of the essential Omega 3 PUFA’s of DHA and EPA. 
  3. With respect to the essential Omega 3’s, DHA and EPA, the current science to date strongly suggests the conversion of ALA (Alpha Linoleic Acid) to EPA and subsequently to DHA is low, especially when the dietary intake of LA and ALA is high. So a combined strategy of minimizing foods, fats and oils high in LA and/or ALA, like deep fried foods, most snack foods, commercial dressings and mayos then filling that void with consumption of foods sources which contain DHA and EPA Omega 3’s like salmon, pasture raised beef, lamb, mutton, goat or wild ruminant game like venison, elk or moose.  If you can’t do that easily or you are vegetarian then supplement with fresh Fish or Krill Omega 3 oils or capsules (never so-called “fermented” oil….another marketing scam).   If you are Plant based then use algae based essential Omega 3 supplements. 
  4. Because of the world we live in, elimination of useless or bad PUFA’s like Trans Fats, vegetable oils, soybean oil and seed oils etc. is virtually impossible. The goal should be to minimize their consumption as much as realistically possible. This is because the physiological and metabolic impacts of the hyperawareness, chronic stress and fear of everything you consume have as much if not more of an impact on your health and well being. 

The One thing you need to know about Fats You won’t find elsewhere

Both MUFA’s & PUFA’s are important to higher health and peak performance but they are useless without the metabolic machinery and metabolic capacity to harness their health benefits. As importantly, having the capacity to metabolize fat is critical to dealing with those less than ideal MUFA’s & PUFA’s that are ubiquitous and unavoidable in the modern diet.

There is no doubt that the good “fats” will drastically improve your metabolic health and performance HOWEVER, due to your current or previous diet your body might not be able to metabolize fats properly.  This has occurred due to the modern diet and well intended but bad advice around fats. We can talk about and consume “good fats” all day long till the cows and the olives and the avocados come home but without the metabolism and physiology optimized to harness all that goodness you are short changing yourself.  

How To Optimize Your Fat Metabolism and Get Fat Adapted

Don’t Worry - this is totally fixable. This is why we focus on your metabolism and physiology rather than diet and/or exercise. We use diet, appropriate supplementation, stress management and physical activity as tools to optimize your fat metabolism. This is the energy source Nature meant us to use for our aerobic metabolism.

Our focus has been precisely on optimizing fat metabolism, and through this we have spent the past 22 years developing a system through working with athletes of all ages and abilities across the spectrum of sports. Optimized Fat Metabolism will help you clean up and reset your metabolic health, and get you operating as nature intended.  The first stage is the Metabolic Reset.  It is not a diet but a 28 day journey to transform your metabolic health and create a foundation for you to hit your health and performance goals.

Click here for more information on the Metabolic Reset.