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Can Saturated Fats Help Your Body Heal?

Jul 16, 2016 02:22 AM EDT

A researcher at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada is standing up for saturated fat, saying that it's not all that bad. "Saturated fats aren't toxic; they actually have the ability to promote healing," says Deanna Gibson, an associate professor of biology, in a UBC Okanagan News post.

Gibson contributed to a study by the UBC's Department of Biology that has been published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. The UBC researchers had investigated possible protective effects of different high-fat diets against infection, using laboratory mice.

Four groups of mice were placed under different diets. The first group was fed corn oil, which is full of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The second was fed olive oil (high in monounsaturated fatty acids). The third group received milk fat (rich in saturated fatty acids) without fish oil, and the fourth got milk fat combined with fish oil (high in n-3 PUFAs).

Following five weeks of these dietary regimens, the mice were subjected to Citrobacter rodentium, a bacterium associated with inflammatory gastrointestinal disease in rodents. The olive oil group showed a greater resilience to colonic infection compared to the others, which experienced symptoms of inflammation.

But there was a difference between the group that was fed corn oil (unsaturated fat) and the two groups that received milk fats (saturated fat). The mice on saturated-fat diets exhibited "compensatory protective responses, including short chain fatty acid production," noted the researchers.

In addition, the combined milk fat and fish oil diet induced a protective effect associated with the activity of an enzyme, intestinal alkaline phosphatase. IAP is known to offer defense against bacterial invasion across the gut mucosal barrier.

It is important to note that the research results involve mice, not humans. Still, that appears to be sufficient for Gibson to issue the following recommendation of an ideal diet (for people): "olive oils, some saturated fats, and a little fish oil."

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