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Why are trans fats bad?

Posted on Dec. 13, 2013 ( comments)
A pound of muscle vs. a pound of fat

Trans fats have been getting plenty of attention in the news lately. But what’s all the hype about?

Trans fats have been stirring up controversy since the early 90s. Most recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that partially hydrogenated fats, as known as trans fats, are no longer “generally recognized as safe.” But what does all this mean for the general public?

What are trans fats?

Trans fats are mostly man-made, and it is the artificial, man-made trans fats that are most concerning to our health. Trans fats are created by adding hydrogen to oils, making a solid fat. The food industry has used trans fats for decades due to their affordability and how shelf-stable (ability to be stored at room temperature for long periods of time) they are in comparison to other naturally occurring fats. Additionally, trans fats can be reheated repeatedly, making them a favorite fat for frying our foods in restaurants and fast food chains.

How do I know whether the food I’m eating contains trans fats?

  • Trans fats can be found in many of our packaged foods including the following:
  • Cookies, cakes, muffins, pie crust, pizza dough, buns
  • Crackers, chips, microwave popcorn
  • Frozen pizza, frozen entrees
  • Margarine and vegetable shortening
  • Donuts, French fries, chicken nuggets, hard taco shells

The best way to know if the packaged foods you are eating contain trans fats is to look at the ingredient list. Trans fats are listed as partially hydrogenated oils/fats. The nutrition facts label is also required to state the number of grams of trans fat per serving. When reading the nutrition facts label, confirm if there are any partially hydrogenated oils listed in the ingredients even if the label states “0 trans fats.” Food manufacturers can claim no trans fats if there are 0.5 grams per serving.

Why are trans fats bad?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a study stating 10 to 20 thousand heart attacks and three to seven thousand coronary heart disease deaths could be prevented each year by avoiding foods containing artificial trans fats. Additionally, the American Heart Association stated “The scientific evidence is clear – eating food with trans fat increases production of ‘bad’ cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease.”

The best approach for reducing your intake of partially hydrogenated trans fats is to reduce your intake of processed packaged foods. When choosing packaged foods, remember to read the ingredients list and select options without any partially hydrogenated oils. Begin to take steps toward including more natural whole foods in your daily intake.

Posted in: Healthy Living

About The Author

Denise Allen, Health Educator, MS, RD, CD
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