Trans fats are man-made fats that are created during the hydrogenation process. They are unnatural and very toxic to your body. Some of the effects they have on the body are, cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction, low-birth-weight babies, birth defects, decreased visual acuity, sterility, and problems with bones and tendons.[i]
What are trans fats, and where do they come from?
Trans fats are a new player on the scene of modern foods. They are abundant in packaged and processed foods. The process of creating trans fats is called hydrogenation. This is the process of turning polyunsaturated fats, normally liquid at room temperature, to fats that are solid at room temperature. The cheapest, most available oils, like soy, corn, cottonseed, or canola, are mixed with tiny metal particles, usually nickel oxide, then subjected to hydrogen gas in a high-pressure, high temperature reactor. Then, emulsifiers and starches are added for a better consistency, and the mixture is steam cleaned to remove the odor. It is then bleached to remove the gray color, and dyes and strong flavors are added to make it resemble butter.i The process alters the molecular structure from the naturally occurring form called cis, into the unnatural form called trans. Meaning, a hydrogen atom is moved across to the other side of the carbon chain at the point of the double bond creating a more packable, plastic fat.ii
Why you should care.
The consumption of trans fats in the diet can cause damage to the cell membranes and alter function of the phospholipid-dependant enzymes contained in these membranes. This alters the membrane permeability impairing the active transport enzymes for sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These cells are then subject to attack by free-radicals, causing all sorts of health problems.iii
immune system dysfunction
decreased visual acuity
problems with bones and tendons, to name a few.[ii]
As the body unwittingly incorporates these fats into the cell membranes, they severely reduce the cellular integrity, so the lungs, digestive tract, and all internal cells wind up admitting allergens, undigested foods, and other foreign particles. Also the saturated fat sources that the trans fats come in causes you to eat six times as much as you normally would, presumably because the body needs essential fatty acids that it is not getting from the trans fats.vi
The safe amount of trans fat is ZERO grams per day
-One study suggests that trans fat is linked to a 93% rise in the risk of cardiovascular disease, and that replacement of 2% of trans fat consumed with mono-unsaturated fats, could reduce the risk of heart disease by 53%.iii
– In another study researchers analyzed data from 84,000 women who were followed for 14 years, and found that higher intake of trans fats was associated with a significant increase in the risk of diabetes.iv
– This same analysis revealed that for every 2% increase in the amount of trans fats increases the person’s risk of heart disease by 93%.
– It has been estimated that trans fats are responsible for 30,000 deaths annually in the U.S.v
[i] Enig, M. and Fallon, S. The Skinny on Fats, http://www.westonaprice.org/know_your_fats/skinny.html.
ii Enig, M. and Fallon, S. The Oiling of America, http://www.westonaprice.org/know_your_fats/oiling.html
iii Lam, M. Types of Fats,http://www.drlam.com/A3R_brief_in_doc_format/2002-No3-Fatandcholesterol.cfm#TypesofFat
[ii] Enig, M. and Fallon, S. The Skinny on Fats, http://www.westonaprice.org/know_your_fats/skinny.html.
viTreelight Health, The Role of TFAs (trans fatty acids & other degenerated fatty acids) in Disease and the Possible Effects of Fasting. http://www.treelight.com/health/TFAsandfasting.html.
iv The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50, March 2002, http://www.hopkinsafter50.com/html/silos/heart/haartocel_saturated.php.