If you only knew what’s lurking inside the foods you’re eating (you probably wouldn’t eat them). Or at the very least, you’d be equally mindful of what you leave out of your diet as what you put in it.
What to leave in, what to leave out
Many experts now recognize inflammation as a key factor in many human ailments, especially those associated with the metabolic syndrome, which consists of the triad of insulin resistance, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
One of the biggest culprits we unwittingly consume whenever we eat foods with saturated fats is a saturated fat called “Palmitic Acid“.
While there have been many treatments designed to lessen the harmful effects of inflammation in the body, perhaps the best advice to follow is that of Hippocrates that says: First, do no harm, and avoid or consume in moderation the foods that contribute to inflammation.
Palmitic Acid (or Sodium Palmitate)
Palmitic acid is a gooey, sticky substance you ingest when you eat foods that contain saturated fats (meats, cheeses, dairy, particularly ice cream). Because it is inexpensive and adds texture, taste, and stability to processed and enriched foods, palmitic acid and its sodium salt find wide use in foodstuffs most especially in fast food.
It is little wonder then, that consuming fast foods leads to weight gain and insulin resistance, and the increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes¹.
Palmitic acid has been shown to: (1) kill the beta cells in the pancreas that are responsible for the secretion of insulin, and (2) suppress the body’s natural appetite-suppressing signals from leptin and insulin — the key hormones involved in weight regulation (See “Ice cream may target the brain before your hips“).
The “napalm connection”
Many people are familiar with the chemical “Napalm”, a thickening/gelling agent mixed with petroleum that was widely used as an “anti-personnel weapon” in World War II and Vietnam.
What they are probably not aware of however how Napalm is made. The substance “Napalm” is named for the two key ingredients in the gel: naphthenic acid , and palmitic acid, which causes a tremendous “inflamed” outburst as seen above.
Surprise, surprise, surprise…
Even more surprising to virtually everyone is that many popular dietary supplements, including many that claim health benefits, contain large amounts of Palmitic Acid, most notably sea buckthorn and krill oil. Many of these nutritional supplements contain upwards of 32-44% Palmitic Acid content; which far outweighs the beneficial effects of the active ingredients (for example: often the Palmitic Acid content is greater than the EPA/DHA in Omega 3 gel caps).
Therefore, it’s always a good idea to the “do no harm” approach.
If you’re trying to reduce the inflammation in your body, avoid or consume in moderation saturated fats from meats, cheeses, and dairy, and limit your exposure to nutritional supplements that contain palmitic acid.
(1) Fast-food habits, weight gain, and insulin resistance (the CARDIA study): 15-year prospective analysis. Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
What do you think? Was this something you were aware of? Kind of makes you wonder about the palmitic acid content of “pink slime” that’s been in the news. What are you doing to cut down on saturated fats in your diet?