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Free Seminar Focuses on the Health Risks and Benefits of Fat

Is There Really Such a Thing as Good Fat?

So what’s the story on fat? Is it all bad? The truth is there are different types of fat and some are good and some are bad. The bad type clogs your arteries and raises your risk for heart disease. But the good kind can reduce your risk. So how do you tell the good from the bad when it comes to fat?

It’s important to learn about the role of fats because heart disease is a killer – literally. It’s the number one cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association.

“Since the 1960s, fat has been vilified,” said Dr. Rohit Sehgal, a Fremont cardiologist and chief of Cardiology at Washington Hospital. “There was a tendency to move to fat-free substitutes, which are often high in carbohydrates and sugar. So even though fat was reduced, we have seen an epidemic of diabetes and obesity. More current research has shown not all fats are bad, in fact some are protective.”

Dr. Sehgal will present “Good Fats vs. Bad Fats” on Tuesday, September 15, from 1 to 3 p.m., with registered dietitian Lorie Roffelsen. The free seminar will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. You can register online at or call 800.963.7070 for more information.

The Skinny on Fat

The seminar will examine which fats are good and bad and how they affect heart health, as well as some of the foods that contain these fats.

“Trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils are the real villains when it comes to fat,” Dr. Sehgal said. “These are chemically produced and can be found in cookies, crackers, margarine, and other processed foods.”

Trans fats raise the level of bad cholesterol – also called LDL cholesterol – in the blood, he explained. LDL cholesterol is considered bad because it contributes to plaque, a thick, hard substance that can clog the arteries and block the flow of blood.

Another type of fat called saturated fat can also clog the arteries, but it’s not as dangerous as trans fats, according to Dr. Sehgal. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products like fatty meats, cheese, butter, whole milk, and cream. But they can also be found in highly saturated vegetable fats like coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter.

“The thinking has changed around saturated fats,” he said. “We used to think that saturated fats are bad, and they can be if you consume too much. They do raise cholesterol levels in the blood. But they can be eaten in small quantities.”

Good Fat Lowers Risk

Unsaturated fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated – should be the main type of fat in a heart healthy diet, according to Dr. Sehgal. These fats are considered the good kind and actually reduce the risk of clogged arteries.

That’s because monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats raise the level of HDL cholesterol – or good cholesterol – in the blood, he explained. HDL is considered good because it actually removes the bad LDL cholesterol from the arteries.

Unsaturated fats can be found in certain oils like olive, canola, corn, soybean and safflower, nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts and pistachios, seeds like sunflower and flaxseed, and seafood.

In fact, seafood, nuts, and seeds also contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats, which are linked to lower levels of triglycerides and a reduced risk of clots that block the flow of blood to the heart, he added. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood along with cholesterol and lipids.

Dr. Sehgal said he will also discuss new lipid guidelines that affect who should take medications to reduce blood cholesterol levels.

“The message here is to avoid the bad fats and focus on the good fats,” Dr. Sehgal said. “You can do that by staying away from trans fats and eating saturated fats in moderation. Eat a diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean sources of protein like fish and seafood. Snack on things like nuts and seeds that will satisfy your hunger. Eat fresh prepared foods instead of processed foods.”

To learn more about the nutrition services offered by Washington Hospital, visit For information about the Heart Program at Washington Hospital, visit