Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that are created when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. While they were once commonly used in processed foods due to their low cost and long shelf life, trans fats are now widely recognized as a major contributor to heart disease and other health problems.
Research has shown that consuming trans fats can increase levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, while decreasing levels of HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol. This can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
In response to the growing body of evidence linking trans fats to heart disease, many countries have implemented regulations to limit their use in food production. Despite these efforts, trans fats can still be found in some processed foods, so it is important to read food labels carefully and avoid products that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
What are Trans Fat Foods?
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that are formed when liquid vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated, which means that hydrogen is added to the oil to make it more solid. This process increases the shelf life and stability of the oil, making it a popular ingredient in many processed foods such as fried foods, baked goods, and snack foods.
Trans fats are often used in place of more expensive saturated fats like butter because they are cheaper to produce and have a longer shelf life. However, they are also highly unhealthy and have been linked to a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
The American Heart Association recommends that people limit their intake of trans fats as much as possible. According to the AHA, trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of heart disease and other health problems.
Trans fats are found in many processed foods. Here are some trans fat examples:
- Fried foods like french fries and fried chicken
- Baked goods like cookies, cakes, and pastries
- Snack foods like chips and crackers
- Margarine and other spreads
Trans Fat Health Risks
Trans fats are a type of dietary fat that are artificially produced by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. They are commonly found in processed foods such as baked goods, fried foods, and snack foods. While small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some animal products, the majority of trans fats in the Western diet come from processed foods.
Increase Risk of Heart Disease
One of the main reasons trans fats are considered bad for you is that they can increase your risk of heart disease. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that people limit their intake of trans fats as much as possible. Studies have shown that trans fats can raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Raise LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Levels
Trans fats have been shown to raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood. This is because they can interfere with the body’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Lower HDL (Good) Cholesterol Levels
Not only do trans fats raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, but they can also lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream, so low levels of HDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease.
Trans fats have been shown to increase inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural response to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation can contribute to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. By increasing inflammation, trans fats can contribute to the development of these and other chronic diseases.
Contribute to Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
Studies have also shown that trans fats can contribute to insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, which can lead to high blood sugar levels. Over time, this can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
In conclusion, trans fats are bad for you because they can increase your risk of heart disease, raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, increase inflammation, and contribute to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. It is important to limit your intake of trans fats as much as possible by avoiding processed foods and choosing healthier fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
Trans Fat Sources
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that can be found naturally in some foods, but are mainly produced through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. These artificial trans fats are commonly found in processed foods and are known to have negative health effects.
Naturally Occurring Trans Fats
Naturally occurring trans fats are found in small amounts in some animal products, such as meat and dairy. These trans fats are formed during the digestive process of ruminant animals, such as cows and sheep. While these natural trans fats are not as harmful as artificial trans fats, they should still be consumed in moderation.
Artificial Trans Fats
Artificial trans fats are created through a process called hydrogenation, which turns liquid oils into solid fats. This process is often used to increase the shelf life and flavor stability of processed foods. Common sources of artificial trans fats include:
- Fried foods, such as french fries and fried chicken
- Baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, and pastries
- Margarine and vegetable shortening
- Snack foods, such as crackers and chips
Consuming high amounts of artificial trans fats can increase levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and decrease levels of “good” HDL cholesterol in the body, which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, the consumption of artificial trans fats has been linked to an estimated 500,000 deaths every year worldwide.
Fortunately, many countries have taken steps to ban or limit the use of artificial trans fats in food production. For example, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the main source of artificial trans fats in processed foods, since 2018. However, it is still important to be mindful of the foods you consume and to read nutrition labels carefully to ensure that you are not consuming high amounts of trans fats.
Trans Fat Foods to Avoid
Trans fats are harmful to your health and it’s important to avoid them as much as possible. Here are some tips to help you eliminate trans fats from your diet:
- Avoid fried foods, especially those that are deep fried or battered. These foods are often cooked in oils that contain trans fats.
- Read food labels carefully. Look for products that contain 0 grams of trans fat. However, be aware that products can still contain trans fats even if they claim to have 0 grams. Check the ingredients list for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
- Choose healthier fats. Instead of using margarine or shortening, use olive oil, canola oil, or other healthy oils in your cooking and baking.
- Eat more whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins are all naturally low in trans fats.
- Avoid processed foods. Many processed foods, such as cookies, crackers, and snack foods, contain trans fats. Opt for whole, unprocessed foods instead.
- Ask your server about the cooking oils used in restaurants. Some restaurants use oils that contain trans fats, so it’s important to ask before you order.
By following these tips, you can reduce your intake of trans fats and improve your overall health.