Trans Fat Leads to Heart Disease

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro
  • Trans fats can be found in thousands of processed foods such as candy bars, potato chips, cookies, donuts, cakes, and ready meals. They are also present in many commercially fried foods such as French Fries in fast food chains.


    Why are trans fats so prevalent?


    Food used to be cooked with butter, or lard, but when research began to surface stating these saturated fats could increase bad (LDL) cholesterol, manufacturers began using healthier vegetable oils.


    However, liquid vegetable oils are unstable at high temperatures, and therefore hydrogenated oils, which are more stable, became more and more popular. The problem with hydrogenation is that it results in trans fats.

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    Unfortunately it is becoming extremely difficult to avoid trans fats - hydrogenated oils are cheap, they adds bulk to products, have a neutral flavour, and help increase the shelf life of products. In short, they're a manufacturers dream!


    Are trans fats bad for my health?


    Scientific studies link eating trans fats with increased bad cholesterol levels, and lower good (HDL) cholesterol levels. This can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.


    A Harvard study also suggests that trans fats can increase the risk of fertility problems. Researchers found that consuming 4g of trans fats every day can lead to infertility in women.


    Another study linked a diet high in trans fats to a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


    How can I avoid trans fats?


    To reduce your intake of both trans and saturated fats you need to read food labels carefully. Thankfully since January 2006, all packaged food products in the US must list the trans fat content on the nutrition facts panel.


    However, some countries do not have this requirement, so you will have to figure it out yourself. You can do this by adding up the values for saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. If the number you get is less than the ‘total fats' shown on the label, the unaccounted amount is trans fat.


    Try to avoid, or reduce your intake of foods that contain:

    • Trans fats
    • Hydrogenated fats
    • Partially hydrogenated fats
    • Vegetable shortening

    6 tips to help you avoid trans fats


    As of April 2004, the FDA recommends trans fat intake should be reduced to less than 1% of energy. So, if you consume a 2000-calorie diet that would equate to 2 grams of trans fats per day.

    1. Read food labels and try to avoid food containing terms listed above.
    2. Replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated (olive, canola oil) and polyunsaturated fats (soybean, corn, sunflower oil).
    3. Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm oils) and soft margarines more often (combined saturated fat and trans fat amount is lower than the amount in solid shortenings) than hard margarines, and butter.
    4. Eat more fresh whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, lean meats, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
    5. Avoid fast food such as fried chicken, French fries
    6. Avoid baked goods such as doughnuts, pastries and cookies.

    Check out the FDA statement on Trans Fats for more information.

  • Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, and author of the award winning She has recently written an ebook, "The Lifestyle Makeover Guide," which you can get for free by subscribing.

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Published On: November 07, 2008