Fat is often associated with an unhealthy diet and with obesity, but fat actually plays an important role in our general health and for the normal functioning of many different organs in the human body.
Cell membranes consist of fats creating a barrier between a cell’s interior and exterior. Without these fats, there would be nothing to separate the internal environment of a cell from its external environment. A cell membrane also consists of small amounts of cholesterol. Cholesterol gives the cell-membrane stability and strength, which is why it is an important and needed component in our body.
Moreover, fat also plays a crucial role in the cells of the nervous system (neurons). Neurones consist of a long tail-like element, which is surrounded by a fatty coat that is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system, as they are responsible for isolating the axons and thereby fastening the speed of the impulses that travel through the axons. Some neuronal diseases are caused by a loss of the myelin sheaths of the axons and it can result in serious health problems.
Although fat is important for our general health, it is only good in moderate amounts. As with everything else, the intake of fat should be carefully balanced. When the intake of energy (in means of fat, carbohydrates and protein) is much greater than the amounts of energy burned, an imbalance arises leading to becoming overweight and in worst cases, to severe obesity.
One of the most serious health problems we face in developed countries is obesity and diseases that come with it. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), obesity has doubled since 1980 and furthermore, most of the world’s population live in countries where obesity and being overweight causes more death than those who are underweight and malnourished.
Obesity is the main cause of many serious diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis and stroke. An increase in cholesterol intake is particularly of special concern as it can lead to plaque formation in the coronary arteries and thereby cause cardiac arrest. The leading cause of death in the world is heart diseases that are the result of leading an unhealthy lifestyle, such as lack of exercise, increased intake of fats, smoking, and high alcohol intake.
Intake of fats should always be strictly regulated and well balanced. It is important to seek alternatives to unhealthy fats. Instead of eating food prepared in unsaturated trans fats such as margarine, one should seek food prepared in cis fats such as plant oils (olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil etc.). Olive oil is especially recommended by many health experts, as well as by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him); “Eat olive oil and anoint yourselves with it, for it is from a blessed tree.” (Tirmidhi At’ima, 43).
One should not remove fats totally from their diet but instead always be aware of which types of fats are consumed and in which amounts. Likewise, it is important to combine a healthy diet with regular exercise and to keep one’s diet simple and natural.
by Adile Orhan