Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cell Membranes - The Gatekeepers

by guest blogger Jody Perrecone

Our body is made up of 50-75 trillion cells. When we eat, our amazing body will take the atoms and molecules that comprise the food and reformulate it into what it needs for growth, energy, protection, and repairs. Each of our trillions of cells is encased in a cell membrane that performs many functions.  The membrane keeps components within the cell as well as releases components from the cell. The membrane keeps the shape of the cell and hosts cell hormone receptors and components that regulate our body. The cell membrane includes cholesterol, fats, and protein.  The amount of these components varies depending on the location and function of each cell. What we eat plays a big part in the composition of the membranes.
Let’s focus on the fats in the membrane. Types of fats include saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats. Sources of saturated fats are meat, dairy including cheese, ice cream and butter, and palm and coconut oils. Unsaturated fat is in fish, nuts, seeds, canola and olive oils.  Trans fats are man-made by infusing vegetable oil with hydrogen.  Sources of trans fats are purchased cakes and cookies, donuts, crackers, and many processed foods.
Trans fats and saturated fats make the cell membrane more rigid and have an impact on one of the functions of the membrane which is regulating what goes in and out of the cells. Unsaturated fat creates a space for nutrients to enter the cells.

Another type of fat in the membrane, cholesterol, and influences how flexible the cell membrane is. The membrane may be too fluid or not fluid enough. 

Our body makes all the cholesterol and saturated fat our body needs. We run into trouble when our diet creates an over excess of these fats, influencing the mechanics of the cell membrane receptors to transmit information, absorb nutrients, and fight diseases.  

We often give little thought to what we eat, while our body tries hard to function optimally with energy sources we give it from the food we eat. Our cell membranes play an important role in our health. Limiting all fats we eat will contribute to our cells’ ability to function at their best.

Jody Perrecone is a corporate manager for the Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIP). CHIP is an international wellness program focusing on lifestyle interventions to create a healthier workforce and reduce overall healthcare costs. Jody works with hospitals, corporations, and communities to offer CHIP programs throughout the U.S.

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