blood vessels - 2023

Do all the fats you eat inflame your blood vessels?

We have (correctly) identified the mechanisms by which the main causes of infections, viruses and bacteria, harm our cells. One of them is that they trigger an immune response on the part of our organism, which inevitably also affects cells invaded by pathogenic organisms.

Now, a group of researchers led by Timo Speer, from the University of Saarland, in Germany, has proven, once and for all, something that was previously suspected but for which there was no conclusive evidence: that certain fats circulating in our bloodstream interact with some cells of our body and that this provokes a response (negative, of course) of our immune system.

“We can say that adopting a low-fat diet can increase life expectancy.”

As Dr. Timo Speer, lead author of the study, explains: “Our work has been devoted to studying a specific group of lipids, triglycerides. We have been able to show that the high concentrations of these molecules, which are naturally present in our blood, can alter the defensive systems of the cells with which they interact. They do this in such a way that the body reacts as if it were responding to bacterial infections. This causes an inflammatory response, which, if chronic, can damage the kidneys and cause atherosclerosis.

This large-scale study has been able to demonstrate that patients with elevated blood triglyceride levels had a considerably higher mortality rate than groups that did not meet this factor but did have a similar medical history.

The repercussions

In the last ten years we have gone from a predominantly anti-grease view to pro-grease. An example of this is one of the most popular diets today: keto. According to these trends, restricting carbohydrate intake is the real benefit to our system, and these macronutrients can be replaced with pure hard fat (plus protein). But now, again, the tables have turned. As Dr Timo Speer explains: “Now we can say that adopting a low-fat diet can significantly increase life expectancy in high-risk patients, such as those suffering from hypertension and diabetes.

The explanation given by the expert in his study is that the presence of triglycerides in the bloodstream triggers a useless and disproportionate immune response, which causes our own defenses to identify cells in our own organism as ‘hostile’. “This causes a series of self-destructive processes, including those in which the walls of the blood vessels become inflamed and/or occluded, resulting in reduced irrigation.

The other side of the coin

Of course, it’s not all black and white. It has been proven before that many fats are indeed completely negative for our cardiovascular health. The clearest example of this is LDL (bad) cholesterol. However, there are many other fats that have the direct opposite effect, such as omega-3 fatty acids, oleic acids, and… The oily fish is not one of the foods most recommended by the Spanish Heart Foundation. In fact, as they themselves explain, “fish fat is rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease.

Although the results of Dr. Timo Speer’s study seem indeed correct and even relevant, a much larger context is needed to classify lipids, because calling everything ‘fat’ and, at the same time, saying it is ‘bad’ seems like real irresponsibility.