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What is Trans Fat, Sources, Health Effects?

Nuelson Penuel Monday, September 18, 2023 Health

 

Introduction

Trans fats, also known as trans-fatty acids, are a type of unsaturated fat that has been chemically altered through a process called hydrogenation. This process adds hydrogen atoms to liquid vegetable oils, making them more solid and stable at room temperature, and increasing their shelf life. Trans fats have been commonly used in processed foods such as baked goods, fried foods, and snack foods for decades. However, in recent years, research has shown that trans fats are harmful to our health and have been linked to many chronic diseases. Here we will explore the topic of trans fats in more detail, including its definition, sources, health effects, and recommendations for consumption.

What are Trans Fats?

Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that has undergone a process called hydrogenation, which converts liquid vegetable oils into a semi-solid or solid form. This process has been used by the food industry for many decades to improve the flavor, texture, and shelf life of foods. However, it also increases the level of trans-fatty acids in food products. Trans fats are classified as unsaturated fats because they contain double bonds in their chemical structures, but the position of these bonds makes them behave more like saturated fats. This is because trans fats are solid at room temperature and remain stable at high temperatures, making them ideal for use in fried or baked foods.

Sources of Trans Fats

Trans fats are mainly found in processed foods and are not produced naturally by the human body. Some of the most common sources of trans fats include:
  1. Fried foods, such as French fries, fried chicken, and doughnuts
  2. Baked goods, such as pastries, cakes, and biscuits
  3. Snack foods, such as crackers, potato chips, and candy bars
  4. Margarine and shortening
  5. Fast food items such as burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and pizza
It is important to note that many food products that contain trans fats may not be labeled as such, making it difficult for consumers to identify and avoid them.

Health Effects of Trans Fats

Trans fats have been linked to several chronic diseases and health problems, making them one of the most harmful components of our diets. 1. Cardiovascular Disease: Trans fats can increase the levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as "bad" cholesterol, in the blood, and reduce the levels of HDL cholesterol, or "good" cholesterol. This can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, such as coronary artery disease, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. 2. Diabetes: Trans fats can also increase insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that people who consume high levels of trans fats have a higher risk of developing diabetes than those who consume low levels. 3. Obesity: Trans fats are high in calories, and their consumption has been associated with weight gain and obesity. 4. Inflammation: Trans fats can also contribute to chronic inflammation in the body, which is linked to several chronic diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease.

Recommendations for Trans Fat Consumption

Many countries have implemented policies to reduce the consumption of trans fats in food products. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that intake of trans fats should be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of trans fats in food products, stating that they are not generally recognized as safe for human consumption. Consumers can reduce their consumption of trans fats by reading food labels carefully and avoiding products that contain "partially hydrogenated oils" or "trans-fat." Instead, opt for natural, whole foods that are low in saturated and trans fats and high in unsaturated fats, such as nuts, seeds, and oily fish.

Conclusion

In conclusion, trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that are harmful to our health, and their consumption should be limited or avoided. Trans fats are commonly found in processed foods, fried foods, and baked goods, making it challenging to avoid them entirely. However, by reading food labels, choosing natural, whole foods and limiting processed foods, we can reduce our intake of trans fats and other harmful additives in our diets. A healthy diet should include a balance of unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and carbohydrates to promote overall health and well-being.

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