Health Effects Associated with Lipids

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  • 0:02 Lipids (Fats)
  • 0:43 Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • 1:36 Monounsaturated Fats
  • 2:13 Saturated and Trans Fats
  • 3:00 Obesity
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Lipids, or fats, are important nutrients that your body needs for proper functioning. But eating too many fats, especially the unhealthy fats, such as saturated fats and trans fats can lead to heart disease, cancer and obesity.

Lipids (Fats)

There is no denying the fact that extra body fat is a problem that many people in our society struggle with. And, it would seem easy to place the blame on the fats contained in the foods we eat; but the truth is that you need to consume certain fats in your diet to maintain your health.

In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends that 20-35 percent of the calories you eat each day come from fats, or lipids, as they are also called. The trick to good health is to meet, and not exceed, this target range and to consume the right types of fat. In this lesson, we will take a look at the positive and negative health effects associated with the various fats in our diet.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Lipids are a necessary part of a healthy diet and the functions of lipids within your body are many. Beyond the various roles they play in the proper functioning of the body organs, lipids act as a source of energy, aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, insulate your body and provide the essential fatty acids.

Essential fatty acids are a type of fat that cannot be made by the body, so it's essential that you consume them through your diet. Omega-3 fatty acid is an example of an essential fatty acid that is important to your health. It's found in flaxseeds, walnuts and fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed by your body to help maintain proper brain function, and they are thought to reduce inflammation in the body and help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Monounsaturated Fats

We also see some health benefits associated with monounsaturated fats, which are considered to be somewhat healthy fats. These fats have been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels by lowering the level of bad (LDL) cholesterol in the blood and increasing the level of good (HDL) cholesterol. This improved cholesterol profile may reduce your risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats are more common in foods that come from plants, so they can be found in nuts, seeds and avocados as well as oils, such as olive oil, peanut oil and canola oil.

Saturated and Trans Fats

So we see some types of fats benefit the body, but there is a dark side to dietary fats. The unhealthy fats are saturated fats - found in butter, dairy products and red meats - and trans fats - found in margarine, cookies, fried fast foods and many packaged snack foods. Both saturated fats and trans fats have a negative effect on blood cholesterol levels,. Namely they can cause an increase in LDL cholesterol, which we mentioned is considered the bad cholesterol because it contributes to the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries. So, these fats can increase your risk of heart disease. The news only gets worse for the unhealthy saturated and trans fats as they have also been shown to increase your risk of cancer.


While consuming healthier fats is better for your heart and overall health, when it comes to the issue of gaining weight, all types of dietary fats contribute the same number of calories. Therefore, any dietary fat, when eaten in excess, can lead to obesity. Fat is one of three nutrients that contains calories. Fats are the most calorie-dense and provide nine calories per gram. Carbohydrates and proteins provide only four calories per gram.

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