What Are Trans Fats?
Trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, are made when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid. Fully hydrogenated oils do not contain trans fats, but partially hydrogenated oils do. Generally, when a label lists hydrogenated oils without specifying whether they are partially or fully hydrogenated, the oils contain trans fats.
Manufacturers began hydrogenating oils and adding them to foods as an inexpensive way to preserve food and extend the shelf life of their products. Fast-food restaurants favor the use of hydrogenated oils because the presence of transfats allow the deep fryer oils to be used repeatedly.
Until January 1, 2006, the only way you could determine if what you were eating contained trans fats is if you already knew to look for hydrogenated oils on food labels. Now, the Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturersto include the amount of trans fats alongside saturated fat and cholesterol on the nutrition facts panel.
Why Trans Fats are Bad for You
Trans fats work like saturated fats to raise your overall cholesterol levels, but also raise your LDL or bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol builds up on your artery walls, causing them to narrow and harden, thus increasing your risk for developing coronary heart disease.
Unlike saturated fat, trans fats also decrease your HDL or good cholesterol, making them the most dangerous of all fats. HDL cholesterol transports excess cholesterol to the liver, where it’s eliminated from the body. If you’re a woman who consumes high amounts of trans fats, the risk developing coronary heart disease is double that of men.
In addition to increasing your risk for developingcoronary heart disease, eating a diet high in trans fats has been linked with developing Type-2 or adult onset diabetes.
Trans Fats and Children
Trans fats pose a danger to everyone, not just adults. Children develop their eating habits at any early age and children who consume trans fats on a regular basis are at an increased risk to develop coronary heart disease earlier in life than children who consume little or no trans fats.Research done by the University of Maryland has shown that children as young as eight have high cholesterol and blood fats that clog arteries.
Where You’ll Find Trans Fats
Understanding what trans fats are and why they’re a health risk is half the equation. Knowing where trans fats are so you can limit your trans fat intake is the other.
Commercially processed cookies, muffins, cakes, crackers, biscuit and pizza dough, pie crust, shortening and margarine all contain trans fats. Trans fats also lurk in fried chicken and fish, French fries and doughnuts. Even microwaveable popcorn contains trans fats. Surprisingly, some commercial dietary supplements contain small amounts trans fats. Trans fats also occur naturally in trace amounts in milk and other dairy products.
The FDA guideline for reporting trans fats is 0.5 grams per serving. If the product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, manufacturers may list the trans fat content as 0.
Reducing Your Trans Fats Intake
Unlike saturated fats and cholesterol, you won’t see a percent of daily value for trans fats on nutrition facts panels. The FDA has not determined a percentage for daily intake of trans fats.
The American Heart Association however, recommends getting less than one percent of your daily calorie intake from trans fats. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, that means that less than twenty calories should come trans fats. If you consider that trace amounts of trans fats occur naturally in milk and other dairy products, there may be little to no room for allowing