Benefits of Dietary Lipids and Fats: Discovering The Importance of Fat

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

The importance of fat benefits the eyesEmerging research has unearthed a crucial role for lutein, which is categorized as a carotenoid that is essential to the health of our eyes and vision, especially as we get older. A report that identified the importance of fat – which was published in Food Research International in 2014 – examined the role that dietary fats play in a type of absorption in the body with regard to lutein.

Importance of Fat

What we consume can help our bodies absorb a higher concentration of lutein, and this research is important regarding the role of our diet and the importance of fat to our health. This type of absorption, called bioavailability, was tested using animal subjects that were given coconut, soybean, olive, sunflower, groundnut, corn, rice bran, palm, as well as fish oils, given in combination with lutein from petals of marigold, dosed at 200 microMoles (µm). This test was performed on mice with lutein deficiency.

In a little longer than two weeks, or 15 days, the lutein levels in the plasma were highest within olive oil, which was represented with 82 percent, and coconut oil, at 68 percent. Lutein also accumulated in the liver and was highest within these two oils as well, with olive oil at 120 percent and coconut oil at 105 percent in groups that were given the carotenoid with oils versus the control group given micelle with lutein. Lutein eye accumulation was ranked highest within olive and coconut oil as well, with levels of 117 percent and 109 percent respectively. This research demonstrates the importance of fat and the role it plays in our diet.

Lutein has been found to gather in the macula in humans, which can be found near the retina of the eye. It is a pigmented or colored area that is oval in shape. It provides the eye with the ability to see objects directly in front of us, or straight ahead. This is called sharp and central visual ability. The macula contains millions of cells that sense light. In 2010, the macula was found to also absorb blue light, which aids in the prevention of peroxidation of lipids, or oxidative damage to the cells of the eye. Thus, a deficiency in lutein can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). According to the National Eye Institute, AMD is a commonplace condition of the eye that can lead to loss of vision in adults beyond the age of 50.

Lutein is categorized as a carotenoid, as previously mentioned. More specifically, it belongs to a group called xanthophyll. Xanthophylls are pigments that are yellow in color and are produced in nature.

The importance of fat is to help the body absorp luteinAMD has significant effects to vision and has gained a lot of recognition lately for its role in health, leading to an increasing interest and support of supplements containing lutein. Lutein, however, is known for its affinity to dissolve in fats or lipids, which can limit availability to the body. Consequently, consumption of fat is important to how much lutein is taken in. This study was designed to find the importance of fat, and the best way to maximize transportation and absorption to the intended tissues and organs.

The researchers in the study stated that the results show the importance of fat. There is a definite link between levels of low-density lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins, and triglycerides with the levels of lutein in both the tissue and plasma. This indicates that they have a crucial role in transporting lutein that is absorbed in the body to where it needs to go – the targeted tissues.

The Role of Fat in Absorption

Discovering the importance of fat in our diets seems to conflict with previous thoughts that fat was perceived as unhealthy. The importance of dietary fat is not always recognized, but this research shows that dietary lipids and fats – especially from plant sources – are essential to our body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

This research shows the applications and importance of fat, both on a biomedical and nutritional level, and how to select a lipid or dietary fat to ensure maximum absorption of lutein. The results of the study aid in choosing dietary lipids or fats that can, in turn, protect and shield the eyes from macular degeneration that comes with age (AMD), as well as the occurrence of cataracts in elderly adults.

Lutein levels were also reported in the intestines for all of the oils. Intestinal levels of lutein were notably greater than the control unit and ranked in the following order with number one (1) being the highest:

  1. olive oil – 167 percent
  2. coconut oil – 157 percent
  3. sunflower oil – 140 percent
  4. oil from groundnut – 123 percent
  5. soybean – 108 percent
  6. oil from rice bran – 87 percent
  7. oil from fish 51 percent
  8. palm oil – 36 percent

Not only did olive and coconut oil best aid in intestinal absorption, but consumption of coconut oil could protect the brain against Alzheimer’s dementia. Coconut oil could be used as a holistic treatment in this condition and other dementia. As a 2015 study found, it increases cognitive function, especially in women and those with severe cases of Alzheimer’s. A diet rich in coconut oil has also been shown in a 2015 study to increase HDL cholesterol and cutback body mass and waist circumference in people with coronary artery disease. Olive oil boasts brain benefits too. As a 2012 study proved, it can improve memory and learning in mice.

The importance of fat derived from coconut oil is to absorp luteinThe absorption of lutein in the intestines happens when three steps occur. The first is detachment of the lutein from the structure of the cells or chemical bonds. The second step includes cells from the lining of the intestines accepting the uptake of the nutrient. The last step is the transport of said intestinal cells and the parceling into droplets of fat so they are able to be released into the bloodstream through the lymph.

The authors of this study stated that the variances could be from lutein micellization in the cellular structure of the intestines from increased lipase activity in the intestine as well as the solubility factor. Lipase is crucial in the study of importance of fat, as it is defined as a protein and it functions in the intestine to break down fat into fatty acids.

Researchers believe that the absorption of lutein could be correlated to the type of fat consumed in the diet and by the exact fatty acids. As a result, these fatty acids could assist greatly in enhancing portal body absorption and the flow of cholesterol or triglycerides between the peripheral tissues and the liver. This process could affect how lutein is accepted into cells as well as how it is moved throughout the body.

The target of the study proves the importance of fat and the need for finding a specific dietary lipid or fat that could serve as a carrier for lutein, especially for those with a deficiency, since the lack of lutein could increase risk for macular damage and potential AMD.

Carotenoids have been found to provide a plethora of benefits to health with regard to disease prevention, as the consumption of these type of fats is important in the health of the eye and prevention of certain cancers. They function as an antioxidant, which binds to free radicals and can play a crucial role in the prevention of oxidative damage to the body.

The Role of Stress

Oxidative damage can occur from stress, which is central to the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response system and as a direct result, Adrenal Fatigue. This NEM system is made up of two main components, referred to as the neuroendocrine and metabolic. Reactions to stress from these aforementioned components of the NEM system are hormonal, metabolic, neuroaffective, cardionomic, inflammatory, and detoxification – and result in a cascading response.

The importance of fat is to help keep hormones balanced Dietary lipids and consumption of fats are important to our overall health and to ensure the body functions as designed. Fatty acids play a tremendous role in hormone production, as all adrenal steroid hormone originate from cholesterol in the body. When fatty acids are deficient in the diet, adrenal glands can become stressed, which is key to Adrenal Fatigue. The adrenal glands, as previously mentioned, create hormones. One of the main ways the adrenal glands assist the NEM stress response system is that they secrete cortisol, which is the main and most vital hormone to our body’s ability to fight stress. Disruption of hormonal balance can create any number of symptoms, including infertility, intolerance to exercise, fatigue, afternoon slump, as well as low thyroid function. Thyroid function usually slows down as the NEM response advances.

Low thyroid function then affects the metabolic response of the NEM system, as the thyroid – along with the liver and pancreas – are the main components of the metabolic response. When the metabolic response is functioning properly, the body is able to get the nutrients it needs when it needs them. The thyroid functions as the main controller of metabolic speed in the body. With decreased thyroid function comes a slowing of metabolic pathways. This severely affects the quality of the NEM response, as increasing metabolic rate to ensure the brain has adequate fuel is one of its early defenses against stress.

Consumption of fats is important to the neuro-affect response and the autonomic nervous system, the gut, and especially the brain. As the research already showed, the consumption of oil – most notably coconut and olive – aided in ensuring proper absorption and transportation of lutein to the macula of the eye, which could prevent AMD and cataracts in the elderly population. This role of fat is important to brain and eye health, as the retina transmits the light signals from the light-detecting cells of the macula into electrical signals that are sent to the brain via the optic nerve. A diet high in some of these studied oils, such as coconut and olive seem to have a protective function and cognitive enhancement for the brain, which could prevent damage from stress as well as aging. Consumption of fats is important to gut health because they are key to the taking up of lutein, and other essential nutrients. Lymph and liver function – both segments of the detoxification response – appeared to benefit from dietary lipids as well.

The importance of fat is to reduce stressAs previously stated, the consumption of fatty acids is important to adrenal gland function, as it ensures production of cholesterol. This hormone is the precursor to all steroid hormones from adrenals, and therefore a diet rich in fatty acids – like with the mentioned oils – will alleviate some stress for those suffering from adrenal fatigue. The importance of fat is especially seen in the dietary coaching in the adrenal fatigue diet. In a sample dietary plan provided, fat should represent 15 percent of the diet, or about 300 calories; the equivalent of two tablespoons of olive oil. Monounsaturated fats, found in the studied oils, are also represented in the adrenal fatigue specific diet. These fats are important in low heat cooking. Oils with polyunsaturated fats – like sunflower and corn – should not be used for cooking, only added when the food is previously cooked as they offer these essential fatty acids as well. Light cooking should accompany olive oil when low to moderate temperatures are used. Coconut oil is best for cooking with high heat.

It is critical for adrenal fatigue patients to maintain a balance of fat and protein in their diets, along with carbohydrates. Incorporating dietary lipids and consumption of fats is important to recovery, and can provide holistic benefits. The use of oils – especially olive and coconut – resulted in better absorption of lutein, and could affect numerous other nutrients which could aid in the prevention of diseases and offset some of the damage caused by excessive stress. These oils can provide benefit to the eye, brain, liver, lymph system, metabolic function, and stabilization of NEM. Dietary lipids and oils are an essential part of the body’s ability to fight off stress and protect itself from adrenal fatigue. A proper diet is one of the main ways that those suffering from adrenal fatigue can begin to recover and adrenal glands can be restored to maximum health, which incorporates and recognizes the importance of dietary fats and lipids.

Works Cited

Cardoso, D., Moreira, A., De Oliveira, G., Raggio, L. R., & Rosa, G. (2015, November 1). A coconut extra virgin oil-rich diet increases HDL cholesterol and decreases waist circumference and body mass in coronary artery disease patients. Nutricion Hospitalaria, 1(35), 5th ser., 2144-2152. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from

Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration. (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2016, from

Farr, S., Price, T., Dominguez, L., Motisi, A., Saiano, F., & Niehoff, M. (2012). Extra virgin olive oil improves learning and memory in SAMP8 mice. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 28(1), 81-92. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from

Hu, Y. I., De la Rubia, O., Sabater, S., Castillo, S. S., Rochina, M., Manresa, R., & Montoya, C., I. (n.d.). COCONUT OIL: NON-ALTERNATIVE DRUG TREATMENT AGAINST ALZHEIMER´S DISEASE. Nutricion Hospitalaria, 32(6), 2822-2827. Retrieved July 24, 2016, from

© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

The Importance of fat is to help the absorption of lutien.