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Killers Fats

February 8, 2006

By now, almost everyone has heard that it’s good to avoid saturated fats. But scientists are still figuring out exactly how they wreak havoc on the body.


A striking point for killer fats. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Growing evidence suggests that saturated fats can actually kill cells in the body’s vital organs. Now, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have uncovered a key to that process. Cardiologist and medical professor Jean Schaffer says that when a cell can’t make a protein called EF1A-1, saturated fats can’t kill it.

JEAN SCHAFFER (University School of Medicine, St.Louis):
So this is the first identification of a specific protein that is essential for this pathway to proceed.

Unfortunately, blocking this protein in human patients probably isn’t a good idea, because cells need it to maintain their structure. But Shaffer says just knowing its importance will help scientists figure out how saturated fats do their dirty work – and how to stop them. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.