Sarah Joseph M.S., CSCS

Workout Blog

Trans Fats... Where are they hiding and why are they bad?

Posted by Sarah on April 15, 2015 at 6:05 AM

You've probably heard of trans fats by do you really know what they are or why New York City and Philadelphia have issued laws that force restaurants to phase them out? Trans fats are man made fats that are created by adding a hydrogen to oils in order to make them more solid.

This process results in a longer shelf life, as well as numerous health issues. Restaurants and companies choose to use trans fats because they produce the desired texture and taste while being inexpensive. Unfortunately for consumers, trans fats also lead to increased LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol and decreased HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol. This is bad news for consumers because LDL cholesterol transports and deposits fats in the arterial walls, while HDL cholesterol transports blood lipids to the liver to be emulsified. Heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes risk also increase with increased trans fat consumption.

Now that you're sufficiently scared of the health effects of trans fats, let's discuss what foods trans fats are in. Pie crusts, French fries, peanut butter, cheese its, yogurt coated snacks and many many other foods are common offenders. In fact, a food item can have up to .5 grams of trans fat per serving while being marketed as trans fat free according to the USDA.

Meanwhile, current recommendations state that no more than 2 grams of trans fat be consumed per day, and should be eliminated from the diet entirely if possible. There is a small amount of naturally occurring trans fat in meat and dairy products from ruminants but it is unknown as to whether this naturally occurring trans fat has the same negative health consequences as it's fabricated counter part. I was surprised to learn that CLA or conjugated linoleyl acid is a naturally occurring trans fat. CLA is often supplemented with to support a favorable change in body composition. 

You can look for trans fats in the ingredients lists as any oil that has been "hydrogenated." Remember, even if the item is advertised as trans fat free, or cholesterol free, it may still contain hydrogenated oil, aka man made trans fat. Be aware that this food item will not support healthy cholesterol levels. I urge you to do your research regarding trans fats and to examine the foods in your cabinet. If consumers demand it, companies will take heed and begin to phase out this deleterious fat in our foods.

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