Monthly Archives: July 2017

Trans Fats

Trans fats.  What are they?  Where are they found?  Will they affect my health?  These are all great questions and very important questions to get answered.

Trans fat occurs naturally in some animal products.  The naturally occurring trans fats are produced in the gut of some animals, so food made from them may contain small amounts of trans fats.  Artificial trans fats(trans fatty acids) are the ones we need to be aware of.  These are made by a process called “hydrogenation” where hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.  Partially hydrogenated oils (PHO’s) are the primary source of trans fats in our diets.

Partially hydrogenated oils have been used since the 1950’s mostly to increase the shelf life of foods.  These fats are also inexpensive and easy to use.  Many restaurants and fast food places use trans fats to deep fry foods because these oils can be used over and over in commercial fryers.  It wasn’t until the 1990’s that research began to find negative health effects from consuming trans fat.

Eating trans fat raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while lowering your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.  An elevated LDL increases your risk for developing heart disease and stroke. Consuming these fats is also linked with increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health estimate that trans fat causes 72,000 to 228,000 heart attacks, including about 50,000 fatal ones, per year!” (Center for Science of the Public Interest)

Nutrition Facts Label

In January of 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made it a requirement to label the amounts of trans fat in foods, including dietary supplements.  Apparently, the average American adult has been consuming 5.6 grams of trans fat a day!  Having the amounts visible on a nutrition label is great.  We should definitely be made aware of any trans fat in our food.  Knowing this lets us make healthier choices to help us lower our intake of these harmful fats and in the end reduce our risk of heart disease or any other negative health effects.

Some of the places that trans fat can be found:

  • baked goods (cookies, cakes, pies, crackers)
  • ready to use frostings
  • snack foods (such as potato chips and microwave popcorn)
  • fried foods typically found in fast food restaurants
  • refrigerated dough products (biscuits, cinnamon rolls, frozen pizza)
  • vegetable shortening
  • stick margarine
  • coffee creamer

In 2013, the FDA made a “preliminary” determination that partially hydrogenated oils could no longer be generally recognized as safe (GRAS).  After a “thorough review of scientific evidence,” this determination was finalized in June of 2015.  So today, these oils are no longer GRAS (safe).

Food companies have until June 18, 2018 to remove all PHO’s from their food.  After this date, these fats cannot be added to any human food unless approved by the FDA.  According to the FDA, many companies have already been working on removing these trans fats.

The best way to make sure you’re not consuming these harmful fats is to check ingredient labels.  If it has partially hydrogenated oil listed, put it down!  A food can have 0.5 grams of trans fat or less and it is allowed to be labeled as containing zero grams.  This doesn’t make sense, but that’s the way it is.

For example, lets say you’re eating some crackers.  The label states that it has 0 trans fat, but it actually has .5 grams per serving.  You eat 3 servings and you’re getting 1.5 grams of trans fats!  That’s why it’s important to check those ingredient lists!

What exactly are TRANS FATS? Are they harmful to my health? Click To Tweet

Nutrition plays a significant role in our health and the prevention of chronic health problems.  Fortunately, by this time next year, we won’t have to worry about trans fats being in our food.  But, for the time being, we have to check those ingredient labels for the hidden partially hydrogenated oils to ensure we are making the best choices for our health and well being!

Do you try to avoid trans fat in your diet?

 

*References:  FDA.gov and American Heart Association*