What Are Trans Fats?

Fat is without doubt an essential part of the diet for many health benefits, and contrary to popular belief it can aid in weight loss and can also be used as an energy source if consumed in the right manner.

Before I go on to explain more about this topic of discussion lets have a brief look at the 3 main types of fatty acids:

  • Saturated Fat
  • Monounsaturated Fat
  • Polyunsaturated Fat

All these fats have the same basic structure; they are a chain of carbon atoms with varying amounts of hydrogen atoms attached to each carbon.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature such as butter & animal fats, and they will have a full house of atoms attached to each carbon.

If however, there is one free space on the carbon for the attachment of another hydrogen atom then this is classed a monounsaturated fat (mono, meaning one).

Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature such as vegetable oils.

Polyunsaturated Fat

Finally you have polyunsaturated fat (poly, meaning many) relating to many free spaces for hydrogen atoms to attach. Polyunsaturated fats are also liquid at room temperature and examples of these are flax oil & fish oil.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are another type of fat that occur naturally in some foods, such as dairy products and animal products, but most are commonly added artificially into a variety of commercial consumer products.

Trans Fats are produced by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen. This process is known as hydrogenation. The more hydrogenated an oil is, the harder it will be at room temperature. This is beneficial for the food companies because it increases shelf life and stability, enhances the taste and decreases the cost to produce.

Most trans fats in the diet are found in commercially prepared baked goods, margarines, snack foods, and more commonly in processed foods.

So what’s the problem?

Well since the turn of the century researchers have learned a whole load more and can show that trans fats have adverse actions on lipid profiles, they raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, but also lower HDL (good) cholesterol. Trans fats are not essential to our body’s needs and our digestive systems can’t break them down. They do not promote good health as the other fats above do.

There are several serious health issues in review that appear to be aggravated by overconsumption of trans-fats:

  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Obesity
  • Liver Disease
  • Infertility
  • Cancer and Diabetes

So how much Trans Fats should we be consuming?

Well ideally total elimination of trans fats from the diet would be the perfect situation, however this is extremely difficult since it is contained naturally in some foods. However you can eliminate as much as possible by simply reducing processed foods and educating yourselves on how to read food labels.

All foods commercially sold should now list the amount of trans fats within the product. However, some products may contain low amounts of trans fats but will still list zero trans fats on the food label.  So to be sure look to see if it contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, if it does then the food will contain trans fats. The government won’t ban this nasty substance and aren’t doing enough to apply pressure on the manufactures, so it’s up to us to make the right choices.

Olly.
 
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