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Exactly How Bad Are Trans Fats

Trans Fats

What are Trans Fats?

The FDA has issued a notice that companies will have to stop using trans fats in a few years. Some Northren European countries have restricted or completely banned the use of these fats. California, NYC and Baltimore have followed in their footsteps. So what makes trans fats undesirable?

Trans Fats is a subgroup of the fat family that may be organic or inorganic.

Organic Trans Fats

The naturally occurring trans fats come from the gut of herbivorous animals and dairy products derived from them. For instance, meat from grass-fed turkeys and chickens is a source of good trans fats. These good guys are made and stored within the bodies of ruminant organisms (sheep, buffaloes, cows).

These include beef lamb and butterfat. The natural trans fats contribute to Weight Loss diets.

Inorganic Trans Fats

The artificial trans fats manufactured in the industry are the real demons. They are synthesized by a chemical process called partial hydrogenation. Unsaturated vegetable oils derived from plants add hydrogen to yield solids that resemble saturated animal fats. These are the industrially produced trans fatty acids(IP-TFA). As they are cheaply produced, long-lasting and easy to use, they are increasingly used by food manufacturers and fast food outlets. They are present in large proportion in baked (cake), deep fried (French fries and junk (cookies) food. Another reason for their widespread use is that they enhance palatability.

What do trans fats do?

Trans Fats Are The Traitors Of The Fat Family

They have detrimental effects on human health. They are the worst of all fats.

Swelling Of The Blood Vessels
Swelling Of The Blood Vessels

The Trans fats are pro-inflammators meaning that they cause swelling of the blood vessels. Now as the inflammation and endothelial dysfunction increases, more and more LDL is produced by the body to deal with it. TNF α system is activated. Narrowing and hardening of arteries occur. Hence, trans fats increase LDL levels and reduce HDL levels. These fats pack closer and are solids at 37 °C. Therefore, they may occlude the blood vessels causing serious complications.

  • The high LDL levels cause cardiovascular disorders like heart attack.
  • Higher LDL also contributes to the higher incidence of Type II Diabetes.
  • Taking too many trans fats can also lead to Stroke.
  • Increased levels of trans fats in the diet can also cause OBESITY, disturbed blood pressure, joint aches and memory loss.

What Are Some Foods Rich In Trans Fats?

  • Breakfast pastries (doughnuts, cinnamon buns, cakes)
  • Salty snacks(crackers, popcorn)
  • Pasta(macaroni, ravioli, lasagna)
  • Processed breads (garlic bread, Texas toast, frozen pizza, muffins)
  • Desserts(ice cream bars, cakes, brownies)
  • Fried foods (chicken wings, onion rings, potato chips)
  • Meats (sausage, cheese, bacon, red meat)
  • Margarine and related spreads

Why Did Trans Fats Not Affect Our Ancestors?

The reason our ancestors didn’t suffer from heart diseases or weight gain as often as we do is simple.

They were not consuming trans fats, at least not in such high amounts and particularly not the artificial ones. All the trans fats that their bodies had to deal with came from natural sources.

This wave of people suffering from myocardial infarction in the recent years can be attributed to one simple, erroneous incident. In 1977, George McGovern and his team of highly educated individuals released the first Dietary Guidelines in the US. The transcript, it is said, was penned by a vegetarian aide with no nutritional background. He wrote, “The diet of the American people has become increasingly rich – rich in meat, [and] other sources of saturated fat and cholesterol, and in sugar……”

It was an ill-advised report. But, it gained immense popularity among the American people. A shift occurred in their dietary choices.

Junk food altered. Trans fats replaced saturated fats as they were cheap to make and reusable. These fats are rich in free radicals that cause that cause weight gain, ischemic heart disease and diabetes.

So it was the government actually that unknowingly set us on this path of death and destruction. However, scientists and medical professionals have pointed out the adverse effects of trans fats in recent years. As a result, more and more people are turning to high-carb and low-fat diets.

What Is The Normal Intake Of Trans Fats?

If you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, you should consume less than 2 grams of trans fat per day. This is equal to about 20 calories, or about 2 potato chips or one-eighth of a chocolate chip cookie. If you consume fewer calories, you’ll need to limit your intake even more. This shows how pernicious and harmful trans fat is to our health.


Saturated Fats Trans Fats
Saturated Fats Trans Fats

Now that we have established the negative role trans fat plays in our body, let’s discuss some tips to reduce our fat intake.

  • Plan out your diet plan. Yes, go to your nutritionist and work out your nutritional intake (total calories)and foods that you can/can’t eat. Emphasize on low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts.
  • Increase the consumption of mono or polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fats are healthful and less risky. They are abundantly found in sunflower, safflower, canola, and olive oils. They are also present in avocados and nuts.
  • Avoid meals supplying a large quantity of saturated and trans fats. (red meat)
  • Restrict the use of sugary beverages.
  • Include sources of Omega 3 in your diet. (salmon, fish oil, flax seeds)
  • Aim to get between 25-35 grams of dietary fiber per day.
  • Try tofu and soybeans to lower your LDL levels.
  • Try to eat processed food moderately.
  • In case you are obese, try various forms of physical exercise and yoga to reduce your weight.
  • Prepare lean meats and poultry at home.
  • Read the list of ingredients while buying processed food.
  • Always look at the Nutrition Facts panel to find out the amount of trans fat in any product.
  • When you visit a restaurant, remember to inquire about the quality of oil that they use. Prefer salads and soups over fried foods.
  • Use soft margarine as a replacement for butter.

We all know that excess of everything is bad. For trans fat, it is lethal. Limit the number of trans and saturated fat in your diet. Stay away from junk food. Maintain a close connection with nature by eating veggies, salads, and fish. If you look after the food you eat, it will look after your body.

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