On Nutrition by Ed Blonz


DEAR DR. BLONZ: Is there saturated fat in fish? My impression was that the fats in fish are highly unsaturated. -- F.S., Des Moines, Iowa

DEAR F.S.: Naturally occurring fats and oils are a mix of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The type that is most prevalent in any given food is the one that generally gets associated with it. Olive oil, for example, is thought of as monounsaturated, but 10 percent of the fats in olive oil are saturated, and 13 percent are polyunsaturated. Now what about lard? The very mention makes one think "saturated," but with lard, the predominant fat (approximately 45 percent) is actually monounsaturated. Another 11 percent of the fat in lard is polyunsaturated, with 39 percent being saturated.

Fish are generally thought of as sources of polyunsaturated (often omega-3) fats, but they contain saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids as well. The percent breakdown depends on the variety. You can search the USDA database (ndb.nal.usda.gov) for the details.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: A number of people in my office rely on guarana pills for alertness and better concentration on the job. One has even said that guarana helps with impotence. What are your thoughts? -- S.E.D., Phoenix

DEAR S.E.D.: Guarana comes from the seeds of the South American shrub with the same name. The effects you mention, relating to alertness and concentration, have to do with the substance named guaranine, which is usually known by its more common name: caffeine. Yes, that's right: It's caffeine that's responsible for the pharmacologic effects of guarana. On a weight basis, there is more caffeine in guarana than there is in the coffee bean, the kola nut, mate or cacao (cocoa).

There is no standard concentration of caffeine in the guarana extracts used in dietary supplements. Read the label or check with the manufacturer to see how many milligrams of caffeine there are in a serving of any guarana-containing product. Use guarana as you would other sources of caffeine. There is no support, at least none that I could locate, regarding guarana as a "cure" or treatment for impotence.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: Is there a health difference between steel-cut oatmeal and longer-cooking oatmeal? Does the preparation make a health difference, too? I prepare mine by putting both the oatmeal and the water in at the same time and then cooking. -- O.M., San Jose, California

DEAR O.M.: There is no difference in health or nutrition composition between steel-cut and traditional long-cooking oatmeal. The same goes for quick-cook oats. It is the cut of the oats and the speed in which they cook, not the oats themselves, that are different. One half-cup (40 grams) of the dry oats in any of those cuts will contain about 3 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fiber, and no sodium. Your method of preparation sounds fine.

Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.