What is Trans Fat?
A large number of manufacturers began adding trans fat to processed food about twenty-five years ago as a means to extend shelf life. About eighty percent of trans fat in the American diet comes from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil produced in factories.
Trans fats are artificial fats that can be made when hydrogen is added to liquid oil and then pressurized. Trans fats are in cookies, crackers, potato chips, and many other products for public purchase.
Trans fats can extend product shelf life for years but also raise the risk for heart disease and obesity. They also contribute to elevated cholesterol levels and a drop in healthy HDL cholesterol.
Trans Fat and Childhood Obesity
A Canadian all-party commons committee expressed concerns that its current generation of children could expect poorer health outcomes and a shorter lifespan than their parents and cited obesity as the cause. It was noted that twenty-eight percent of Canadians between the age of two and seventeen were overweight compared to a recorded twelve percent in 1978.
The committee called for a ban on trans fat and the initiation of a public-awareness campaign to prevent an obesity epidemic. Concerns were also raised about the quality of the meals eaten by many Canadian children, meals which many times include fatty and processed foods and sugar rich beverages. These sugary drinks may account for a one pound weight gain per month among adolescents.
Trans Fat Causes Weight Gain,** Regardless of Calorie Intake**
An animal study showed that trans fats can cause a redistribution of fat tissue to the abdomen (belly fat) that promotes weight gain despite the control of total daily calories. This redistribution of weight cause the "apple" body shape which increases the potential for diabetes and hear disease.
During the testing period, all of the animal subjects were given the same amount of daily calories with 35% of those calories coming from fat. The number of calories given should have maintained body weight and not increased it. It was discovered that the animals receiving a diet that contained trans fat had a 7.2%increase in body weight compared to a 1.8% increase among those animals that ate mono-unsaturated fats.
Trans Fat Increases Bad Cholesterol
Trans fats are easily digested, and their fatty acids are absorbed by the cells that line the intestines. Fats are not soluble in our blood and can only be transported by a water soluble substance. Fat-protein clusters that move fats through the blood are called lipoproteins.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL - the good choolesterol) cannot accommodate trans fat because these lipoproteins are too small, but they can be transported through the blood by the larger low-density lipoproteins (LDL - the bad cholesterol). Therefore, trans fat increases the amount of LDL (the bad cholesterol) in the blood. Unfortunately, LDL levels are connected to the deposit of fatty substances on blood vessel walss that increase the risk of coronary disease.