Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats or trans fatty acids, are artificial fats. They are manufactured–except for the small amounts found naturally in beef and dairy products.
In fact, they are so bad that even the USDA says they pose serious health hazards. The federal government now requires that all trans fats included in processed foods require labeling. The University of Maryland states that 80 percent of trans fats are found in factory-produced vegetable oils. And oils used in processed foods are typically vegetable oils.
What is a Trans Fat?
When you add hydrogen to an unsaturated vegetable oil under pressure, you create a trans fat, transforming a liquid fat into a fat that’s solid at room temperature. Crisco and margarine are good examples. Because trans fats can withstand swings in temperature as well as repeated heating, they are primarily used to extend the shelf life of processed foods—foods that would probably be better dying a premature death.
Why Are Trans Fats Harmful?
While essential fatty acids, which occur naturally, are necessary to maintain a healthy body, trans fats are not an essential fatty acid. The introduction of trans fats into the body, however, changes a delicate balance, and according to the Mayo Clinic, can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering HDL (good).
What Medical Problems do Trans Fats Cause?
According to Vanderbilt University, research suggests that a diet that includes trans fats can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, low birth weight, obesity, and immune dysfunction. Type II diabetes has, in fact, skyrocketed since the introduction of trans fats. That’s an established fact.
While the research may not be conclusive, many doctors and other health professionals insist that the research is conclusive. With what we know about trans fats, it certainly warrants eliminating this potential danger from our diet.
Avoiding Trans Fats
Now that the federal government requires clear labeling of trans fats, it’s a lot easier to spot them. Make it a habit to read ingredient labels. If you stick to real, whole foods, there are no labels to dissect. Nature is providing you with all you need to know. A diet of made-from-scratch, whole foods, eliminates the possibility of trans fats creeping into the diet.
With all the healthy fats from which to choose (olive oil, grapeseed oil, ghee, etc.) why on earth would you knowingly select a harmful trans fatty acid? For convenience? Health problems later in life certainly pose a starker inconvenience than taking control of your own food supply now.