Dangerous Trans Fats

What the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

a_oreo2Two decades ago I read a study about the analysis of cholesterol in the arteries of people who died of coronary artery disease. It turned out that much of the gunk lining these arteries wasn’t cholesterol at all – it was Crisco – hydrogenated vegetable oil. Since then I have been warning people not to eat anything with vegetable shortening that is chemically more like plastics than food. Today we call these substances trans fats. The industry has known about this for at least that long! Only now, after even more publicity than they could squelch, they’ve started to do something about it.

Trans fats are used mostly for commercial cooking and food preparation, and is one of the main sources of disease in the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.). Hydrogenation adds hydrogen gas to vegetable oil, helping to solidify it into a molecule that more closely resembles plastic than food. The process, used for margarine or shortening, makes them more unhealthy than real butter, since hydrogenated fats act like cholesterol in your body.

Now a law in California holds manufacturers liable for their products if they are known by manufacturers to be unsafe, though not by consumers. In other words, they may be liable for hiding the truth! So finally, after years of knowingly making product bad for your heart, someone is doing something about!

Let’s hold all food manufacturers responsible for their products! By the way – the company which owns Oreos also owns major cigarette brands. Think about it!

More Facts about Trans Fats

Trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Another name for trans fats is “partially hydrogenated oils.” Look for them on the ingredient list on food packages.

The reason why food industries like using trans fats in their foods because they’re easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time. Trans fats give foods a desirable taste and texture. Many restaurants and fast-food outlets use trans fats to deep-fry foods because oils with trans fats can be used many times in commercial fryers.

Trans fats affect your health in a way that trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis and many other health problems.

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Why did trans fats become so popular if they have such health effects? As we know, before1990, very little was known about how trans fat can harm your health. In the 1990s, research began identifying the adverse health effects of trans fats.

Trans Fats are found  everywhere

Perhaps you find that it is hard to completely avoid trans fats because they can be found in many foods – but especially in fried foods like French fries and doughnuts, and baked goods including pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, and stick margarines and shortenings.  You can determine the amount of trans fats in a particular packaged food by looking at the Nutrition Facts label.  You can also spot trans fats by reading ingredient lists and looking for the ingredients referred to as “partially hydrogenated oils.”

The natural trans fats

Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, including beef, lamb and butterfat.  It isn’t clear; though, whether these naturally occurring trans fats have the same bad effects on cholesterol levels as trans fats that have been industrially manufactured.

The safe dosage

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans fats you eat to less than 1 percent of your total daily calories.  That means if you need 2,000 calories a day, no more than 20 of those calories should come from trans fats.  That’s less than 2 grams of trans fats a day.  Given the amount of naturally occurring trans fats you probably eat every day, this leaves virtually no room at all for industrially manufactured trans fats.  Find out your personal daily fat limits on My Fats Translator.

How can you stay within your daily limit for trans fats?

Read the Nutrition Facts label on foods you buy at the store and, when eating out, ask what kind of oil foods are cooked in.  Replace the trans fats in your diet with monounsaturated or  polyunsaturated fats.  For practical tips, learn how to Live Fat-Sensibly.