Trans Fat Truths

Trans Fat Truths

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When it comes to the world of fats; trans fat is the Voldemort, the Cruella, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Joker, the Darth Vader – you get the picture. It’s bad.

Unlike the other existing fats, trans fat (Trans Fatty Acid) both raises your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your “good” (HDL) cholesterol. This killer combination increases your risk in heart disease: one of the leading causes of death in America.

What is it anyway?

Trans fat is actually created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation. This creates hardened margarine/shortening. It makes the oil less likely to spoil; which makes sense why manufacturers are such fans of it, it helps foods to stay “fresh” longer and increases their shelf life. Not to mention, it reduces their costs.

Trans fats also alter the configuration of cell membranes and they blcok important enzymes that are necessary for the metabolism of fats. Want to know how long it takes your body to metabolize just half a trans (hyrdogenated) fat? 51 DAYS! That’s not even the most shocking…after 102 days, there is still 25% left for your body to deal with. That definitely makes me want to avoid trans fats like the plague.

The types of foods they pump trans fats into include foods such as French fries, fried chicken, cookies, crackers, doughnuts, etc. Just to name a few.

Food Labels

In 2006, the FDA put in place the rule that all manufacturers were required to list trans fats on their food labels. But it won’t always just say “trans fat”; it might instead say “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oil.

You should also be aware of what nutrition labels really mean when it comes to trans fat. Why? Because in the United States if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat. Although that is a small amount of trans fat, if you eat multiple servings of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fats, you could exceed recommended limits. It’s in your best interest to avoid processed foods altogether.

Effects of Trans Fat

Doctors worry most about the negative effects trans fat has on cholesterol levels. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that trans fat increases your bad cholesterol and decreases the good.

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) a.k.a. “the bad”: transports cholesterol throughout your body. LDL, when elevated, builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) a.k.a. “the good”: picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.

In addition to the risk of heart disease, over time a high LDL level can cause atherosclerosis; a dangerous accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries. These deposits – called plaques – can reduce blood flow through your arteries. Here is how these plaques have the potential to harm you:

  • Coronary Artery Disease: when the arteries that supply your heart with blood are affected – symptoms of chest pain occur.

  • Blood clot: when plaques tear or rupture, blocking the flow of blood or breaking free and plugging an artery downstream.

  • Heart attack: if blood flow to your heart stops.

  • Stroke: if blood flow to part of your brain stops.

And these are just effects caused in relation to cholesterol. Yikes. The terror doesn’t stop there. Here are more harmful effects trans fats have been shown to have:

  • Increases triglycerides: Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. A high triglyceride level may contribute to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) or thickening of the artery walls — which increases the risk of stroke, diabetes, heart attack and heart disease.

  • Increases Lp(a) lipoprotein: Lp(a) is a type of LDL cholesterol found in varying levels in your blood, depending on your genetic makeup. Trans fats make Lp(a) into smaller and denser lipid particles, which promotes a buildup of plaques in your arteries.

  • Causes more inflammation: Trans fat may increase inflammation, which is a process by which your body responds to injury. Trans fats block the production of prostaglands type 1 & 3(PG) which help you fight inflammation as well aid your hormonal and nervous system. Of course, what do they not block? Prostaglands type 2, which come from dairy, red meat, and shellfish; all of which increase inflammation. So not only do trans fats increase inflammation, they also PREVENT us from reaping the benefits of our anti-inflammatory prostaglands! Inflammation nation, fo’ sho’.

​Daily nagging symptoms also include:

  • Headaches

  • PMS

  • Hot flashes

  • Skin problems

  • Asthma

  • Arthritis

  • Joint pain

Here’s a list of the 19 worst food products containing trans fats:

  • French fries

  • Anything battered or fried

  • Pie & pie crust

  • Margarine sticks

  • Shortening

  • Cake mixes & frosting

  • Pancake & waffle mixes

  • Frozen fried chicken (kid cuisine)

  • Ice cream

  • Nondairy creamers

  • Microwave popcorn

  • Cookies

  • Biscuits & sweet rolls

  • Slim Jim meat sticks

  • Crackers

  • Frozen dinners

  • Asian crunchy noodles

  • Canned chili

  • Packaged pudding

So – next time you go to the grocery store, CHECK LABELS! The best route is to choose whole, real, organic foods when possible. If it didn’t come from the earth and doesn’t have a mother, it should be carefully evaluated!

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