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The New Good Fat

Tigger Montague

A new class of fatty acid found in food and synthesized by mammalian tissues enhances glucose uptake from the blood and reduces inflammation.  A new study reveals that this “new good fat” may be the key to preventing and treating diabetes.

Called FAHFAs (Fatty Acid Hydroxyl Fatty Acids) these newly discovered lipids were lower in humans with early stages of diabetes, and much higher in mice resistant to diabetes.

“These lipids are amazing”, said Professor Alan Saghatelian, a senior author of the research, “because they can also reduce inflammation, suggesting that we might discover therapeutic opportunities for these fats in inflammatory diseases.”

FAHFAs are considered by scientists to be a rare discovery, because there hasn’t been the technology to identify them until now. The research determined that FAHFA levels in humans who are insulin-resistant were lower in fat and blood suggesting that changes in FAHFA levels may contribute to diabetes.

When blood sugar rises after a meal, these novel lipids rapidly stimulate the secretion of a hormone that signals the pancreas to secrete insulin.  These lipids also directly stimulate sugar uptake into cells and reduce inflammatory responses in fat tissue and throughout the body.

Some of the food sources identified with FAHFAs that pertain to horses are apples and eggs.  It is interesting that eggs were more commonly fed to horses in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  This may be due to the fact that most farms and stables had flocks of chickens, so eggs were a convenient protein source.   Some racing stables today in Ireland feed Guinness beer and raw eggs to their horses for shiny coats and good muscle.

It remains to be determined how the different actions of the FAHFAs including sensitizing cells to insulin, stimulating insulin production and reducing inflammation contribute to glucose homeostasis.  We also don’t know yet which enzymes are involved in regulating and synthesizing the FAHFAs or how they are regulated by changes in diet, or how they are affected by the composition of micro -organisms in the gut.  Yet, it may well be that FAHFAs become more than just the new good fat, and go on to become therapeutic agents for metabolic diseases.

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