Trans fats, also called trans fatty acids, are not natural fats. They are created during the manufacturing process. Hydrogen gas is added to vegetable oils at high temperatures to create a more stable fat. The reason food manufacturers do this is that it adds shelf life to their products. How many years will a Twinkie or a Ding Dong remain good? They also make their products taste better and it is a means for manufacturers to save money. But the health implications of ingesting trans fats have many health care professionals requesting immediate changes be made.
Trans fats have been discovered to be very dangerous to people’s health. People that eat foods containing trans fats are at increased risk of heart attacks. This is because HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels in the blood are decreased and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels are increased. Some studies have predicted that 30,000 premature deaths due to coronary heart disease could be avoided each year with the reduction or elimination of trans fats from the diet.
Trans fats can be found in many foods. The biggest culprit of trans fats is hard margarine. Foods containing trans fats include baked goods that are produced commercially such as doughnuts and other pastries. Other foods include cookies, chips, French fries and fried chicken.
How does one know if their food choice contains trans fats? When reading a nutrition label on the package, if the words ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’ appear, then there are trans fats present. But, in 2006, a new law enacted by the Food And Drug Administration now requires that trans fats be included on food labels, thereby making it easier for consumers to spot trans fats.
Nutritionists and other healthcare professionals recommend lowering the intake of trans fats in the diet and if possible, eliminating them entirely. The city of New York recently enacted legislation that bans restaurants from using trans fats when cooking food. Also, some big name fast food companies have agreed to phase out trans fats from their restaurants in Australia.
Research has indicated that trans fats are harmful to the heart. Measures are being taken, some voluntarily and some are mandatory by new laws, to reduce trans fats from the foods consumers eat. But, health-conscious consumers may want to begin taking action on their own very soon as it appears that it will still be several years before trans fats are eliminated altogether.