Saturday, November 20, 2010
Why You Should Completely Eliminate Manufactured Trans Fats From Your Diet
The average American eats 6 grams of trans fat a day. The American Heart Association and World Health Organization recommend limiting trans fats to less than 1 percent of your daily caloric intake (that’s less than roughly 2 grams of trans fat a day for an adult). There are a small number of naturally occurring trans fats found mostly in animal products such as dairy, beef, and lamb. This naturally occurring trans fat does not, in all likelihood, have the same detrimental effects on our health as synthetic trans fats.
Manufactured trans fats are found in many of the processed foods we eat. These fats are created through the addition of hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Food manufacturers use these hydrogenated fats because they extend the shelf life of foods considerably and they add taste and texture. Many restaurants use trans fats to deep-fry foods because these oils can be used many times without spoiling. Many baked goods, shortenings and margarines, and fried foods contain trans fats.
(If you want to experiment, put a container of margarine in your garage- see whether it spoils or attracts any animal attention!). We now know that even small amounts of trans fat in the diet can be damaging to our health.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, trans fats cause inflammation (internal swelling) which is an important factor in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and many other chronic conditions. Trans fats also increase LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, even more than saturated fats, and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Trans fats decrease the responsiveness of the inner lining of our blood vessels and thereby contribute to high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (just imagine that margarine coating your blood vessels). Trans fats are also associated with obesity and insulin resistance (“pre-diabetes”).
Studies have found that a 2% increase in calories from trans fats, the amount consumed in a medium-sized serving of French fries, increases the risk of heart disease by 23% and the risk of diabetes by 39%.
According to a 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, replacing 2% of dietary calories from carbohydrates or polyunsaturated fats with trans fats resulted in an increase in ovulatory failure of greater than 70%. It’s small wonder infertility clinics are expanding all over the country.
An important study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that eliminating trans fats from the US food supply could prevent between 6 and 19 percent of heart attacks and related deaths (that’s more than 200,000 deaths) a year.
So, how does one minimize trans fats in the diet? Be sure that the ingredient list of the food products you purchase does not list hydrogenated oil. Unfortunately, the designation “trans fat free” requires only that there be less than ½ a gram of trans fat per serving. Because we, as a society eat so much processed food, all of those “½ gram servings” really do add up. Bakeries are not required to reveal trans fat and most of their products contain an abundance of it. Be an informed and healthy consumer!