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Ask Tufts Experts April 2017 Issue

Q. After acute inflammation of the gallbladder and pancreas, I was advised a low-fat diet. Do these organs distinguish between good and bad fats?

A. Alicia Romano, MS, RD, a clinical dietitian at Frances Stern Nutrition Center at Tufts Medical Center, explains: "Fats in all forms, 'healthy' or 'unhealthy,' require emulsification (breakdown into smaller particles) and digestion in order to become usable in the body, and that involves the gallbladder and pancreas. As food moves from the stomach into the small intestine [where the majority of fat digestion occurs], hormones stimulate the gallbladder and pancreas to release digestive juices. Large, complex fat globules in the small intestine are emulsified by bile from the gallbladder and then acted on by pancreatic enzymes. Therefore, any fat consumed in the diet will stimulate secretions from the gallbladder and pancreas, regardless of how healthy the fats are." Still, for the small amounts of fat you can eat, prioritize healthy ones: vegetable oils (such as soybean, canola and olive) nuts, seeds, avocados and omega-3-rich fish.

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