The Cell Membrane

Our body have trillions of cells.  Each cell has a cell membrane which is essentially two layers of fat, the so-called phospholipid bilayer, which keeps the cell intact. Most of the fat in the cell membrane is saturated, thus giving the cell its strength and rigidity.

The cell membrane has special channels through which substances can enter and leave the cells.  In addition, there are specific receptors for hormones through which the cells can interact and communicate with the -environment.  In the case of glucose, there are special insulin receptors.

Polyunsaturated fats are essential

It is for these special channels and receptors that we need the polyunsaturated or essential fatty acids.  Thus, we need the omega 3 and omega 6 from our diet to maintain the integrity of our cell membrane structure and functions.

There is a crucial point which is missed in most main-stream nutritional advice which advocates increasing our intake of the so-called essential fatty acids in margarine and vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fat.

The double bonds in the polyunsaturated fat, while allowing the molecule to fold and bend and thus assume a unique three-dimensional configuration, are very delicate and unstable.  The damage can occur in the presence of heat, light and oxygen, which is why these vegetable oils can turn rancid when left for any length of time.

Trans-fats

The aim of the processing and hydrogenation is to make the  oil more stable.  In the process, all kinds of altered(damaged) fats are produced.  In the extreme case, trans-fats are produced. These are saturated fats but they are different from the saturated fats that our body produces. Even when the damage is not so extreme, as claimed by manufacturers of the so-called trans-fat free margarine, the result is still the same since any alteration to the original configuration is detrimental.  In fact, mega trans-fats is a term used to describe these altered and oxidized polyunsaturated fat.

Each cell in our body requires the natural, undamaged and unprocessed polyunsaturated fats so that the special channels and special receptors of the cell membrane can be maintained.  Any alteration to the structure of the fat will result in damage to the structure of the cell membrane and its crucial functions in maintaining the integrity of the channels and receptors.  The cells cannot function properly.  This is the start of what we now call the degenerative diseases of the modern world including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

Our body cannot make these essential fatty acids and has no mechanism to convert the altered and damaged polyunsaturated fats back to their original configurations, these damaged fats persist in our body for a long time.  In fact, the half life of fat in our body is 500 days. Since most of us are adding to our reservoir of damaged polyunsaturated fats daily through our consumption of margarine and vegetable oils like sunflower, corn, soy and canola, the destruction never ends until death ensues.

This is perhaps another one of those ‘science that has gone wrong’ stories which have caused so much ill health and suffering around the world. Read more about these in <Pandora Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong>.