What are Trans Fats?
Trans fats or fatty acids are formed by the transformation of liquid oils to solid fats. This process is known as hydrogenation whereby hydrogen atoms are added to vegetable oils. There are two types of trans fats found in our foods – natural and artificial occurring trans fats.
Natural-occurring trans fats are produced in the guts of some animals. They can be found in foods made from these animals such as milk and meat products. These types of trans fats are good for the health as they usually come in small quantities. On the other hand, artificial trans fats are made industrially when hydrogen us added to vegetable oils to make them more solid. Industries hydrogenate vegetable oils to increase their shelf life and add flavor stability to foods. Artificial trans fats are found in foods we consume daily such as chips, fried foods, cereals, baked goods, candies and snack foods.
Risk of Trans Fat Consumption
Heart Disease: Studies have shown that replacing carbohydrates with artificial trans-fat increases bad cholesterol (LDL) and do not have effect on good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. Artificial trans-fat also negatively affects the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol in the body. This may result in increased risk of heart diseases.
Insulin Sensitivity: High trans-fat diet increases the risk of diabetes. This can cause insulin resistance, abdominal obesity and elevated fructosamine resulting in high blood sugar level. This in turn can drive type 2 diabetes in the human body.
Inflammation: Excess inflammations in the body are among the leading cause of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis and metabolic syndrome. For people who naturally have a lot of body fat, trans-fat have been linked to their inflammatory markers – C Reactive Protein.
Blood Vessels and Cancer: Regular consumption of trans-fat have been proved to damage the inner linings of the blood vessels – endothelium. A national health study also shows that the intake of trans-fat before menopause increases the risk of cancer. It also showed that over a four week study on patients who consume trans-fat, the ability of their arteries to dilate was reduced by 29 percent. In addition, research has shown that the major contributing factor of endothelial dysfunction is the intake of artificial trans-fat.
How to Regulate Trans Fat Intake
- Reduce the consumption of red meat, sugary foods and beverage. An individual should focus more on a diet containing fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products, lean meat and fish.
- During cooking, use unhydrogenated oil such as sunflower, olive, canola and safflower oil.
- When eating out, choose foods made with unhydrogenated oil rather than those with partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oils and saturated fats.
- Soft margarines should be substituted for butter when used for breakfast meals and baking purposes. Most products indicate the percentage of trans-fats contained in it. Always go for those with 0g trans-fat content.
Reduce the intake of junk foods especially at night time. Foods like fries, donoughts, baked goods, pies and pancakes accumulate large amounts of trans-fat during preparation. This can be