Saturday, December 2, 2017

How Saturated Fatty Acids Damage Cells

               In our increasingly health-conscious society, a new fad diet seems to pop up every few years. Atkins, Zone, Ketogenic, Vegetarian, Vegan, South Beach, Raw and with so many choices and scientific evidence to back each, it’s hard to know what’s healthy and what’s not. ‘Saturated Fats are Bad,’ nutrition’s and researchers at Columbia University have known for a long time that saturated fats contribute to some of the leading causes of death in the United States. They haven’t been able to determine how and why excess saturated fats, such as those that are released from toxic to cells and cause a wide variety of lipid-related diseases, while unsaturated fats from fish, and olive oil can be productive. Columbia researchers developed a new microscopy technique that allows for the direct tracking or fatty acids after they have been absorbed into living cells. The technique involves replacing hydrogen atoms on fatty acids with their isotope, deuterium, without changing their physicochemical properties and their behavior like traditional strategies do. By switching all molecules made from fatty acids can be observed inside living cells by an advanced imaging technique called SRS [Stimulated Raman Scattering] microscopy.          
       The cellular process of building the cell membrane from saturated fatty acids results in patches of hardened membrane in which molecules are frozen, under healthy conditions, this membrane should be flexible and the molecules fluidic. Also, researchers found that using this technique could have significant impact on both the understanding and treatment of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The stiff, straight, long chains of saturated fatty acids rigidify the lipid molecules and cause them to separate from the rest of the cell’s membrane. As more saturated fatty acids enter the cell, those “solid like clusters” grow larger, creating increasing inelasticity of the membrane and gradually damaging the entire cell. Lipid molecules made from unsaturated fatty acids on the other hand bear a kink in their chains,        
      Addition of unsaturated fatty acids could melt the membrane frozen clusters by saturated fatty acids, new mechanism related to this can partly explain the beneficial effect of unsaturated fatty acids and how unsaturated fats like those from fish oil can be protective in some lipid disorders. Later, it revealed an unknown toxic physical state of the saturated lipid accumulation inside the cellular membranes. The behavior of saturated fatty acids once they have entered cells contributes to major and often deadly diseases, visualizing how fatty acids are contributing to lipid metabolic disease gives us the direct physical information we need to begin looking for effective ways to treat them. We can find away to block the toxic lipid accumulation, the finding has the potential to really impact, public health, especially for lipid related diseases.   

Columbia University. (2017, December 1). How saturated fatty acids damage cells: Observations of saturated and unsaturated fatty acid behavior could impact public health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 1, 2017 from

Guenel, J. (2017, December 1 ). New Imaging Study Reveals How Saturated Fatty Acids Damage Cells. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from

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