Judging from the title of this article, some of you might have thought you were reading the results from an inspection (bad memories for some leathernecks). This week, we will be discussing something that many people wonder about. Some of us have heard in the past about different types of fats. You hear terms like, saturated, unsaturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Well, this week we'll discuss these terms and clear up some of the confusion. Let's get started.Webster's New World Dictionary defines to saturate as, "to cause to be thoroughly soaked, or chemically; to cause a substance to combine to its full capacity with another." Now we have to translate these in the terms of fitness and health.

Saturation, a term that is used in conjunction with cardiovascular disease (CVD), refers to the chemical structure -- specifically, to the number of hydrogens the fatty-acid chain is holding. If every available bond from the carbons is holding a hydrogen, the chain is a saturated fatty acid, that is filled to capacity with hydrogen.

Sometimes, especially in the fatty acids in plants and fish, there is a place in the chain where hydrogens are missing, an "empty spot," or point of unsaturation. A chain that possesses one or more points of unsaturation is an unsaturated fatty acid. If there is one point of unsaturation (oleic acid), then it is a monounsaturated fatty acid. If there are two or more points of unsaturation, is a polyunsaturated fatty acid.

Thus, fatty acids are energy-rich carbon chains that can be saturated (filled with hydrogens) or monounsaturated (with one point of unsaturation) or polyunsaturated (with more than one point of unsaturation).

Now, many of us have heard saturated fats linked with high blood cholesterol and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Controversy surrounds the question of how saturated fat and cholesterol is linked to CVD. The hypothesis has two parts:

1. That high blood cholesterol is at least partly caused by a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and

2. That reducing the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet, by lowering bad high blood cholesterol (LDL), will reduce the rate of CVD.

Both parts have strong support, however, pieces are missing. Blood cholesterol can be raised in both animals and people by raising the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol in their diets -- but whether the high blood cholesterol we see among so many people in the real world is caused by that aspect of their diets has been impossible to demonstrate. In regards to the second part, it is possible to lower blood cholesterol in both animals and people by reducing the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diets. Again, whether this reduces the risks of heart disease has been unreliable to demonstrate.

Although research has yet to prove that a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol causes high blood cholesterol, most experts agree that almost everyone should be screened for high blood cholesterol and be treated if necessary.

Of course, much of this sounds confusing. Basically, a good rule of thumb to follow is stay away from a lot of saturated fat. Generally, the more unsaturated a fat, the more liquid it is at room temperature. In contrast, the more saturated a fat, the firmer it is. Thus, of the three fats--lard (from pork), chicken fat, and safflower oil--lard is the most saturated and the hardest; chicken fat is less saturated and somewhat soft; and safflower oil, which is the most unsaturated, is an oil at room temperature. Further, chicken is recommended over pork for people avoiding saturated fats. Thus, if your health care provider tells you to use monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, you can judge by the hardness of the fats which ones to choose. Generally speaking, vegetable and fish oils are rich in polyunsaturates and the animal fats are more saturated.

Hopefully, this has shed a little light on the types of fats and their level of saturation. Make sure you read the labels of the foods you eat and try to maintain a healthier lifestyle. That's the scoop this week from Semper Fitness. Stay pumped, stay motivated and OO-RAH!

Semper Fidelis!