Avoiding Trans Fat May Save Your Life

As consumers we had no idea how much trans fatty acids (trans-fat) were in the food we eat. Until now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after much red tape, is requiring that trans-fats be on all packaged food labels. You will see the new addition right below the saturated fat listing. At least now, Americans in the packaged food they buy can see how much is in there. Trans-fat are worse on the heart than saturated fat and should be avoided in any diet program.

Trans-fat are, in my opinion, the most deadly of the unnatural forms of fat. The FDA estimates that 500 deaths from heart disease will be prevented in the next 3 years, thanks to this new information to consumers. Harvard researchers have estimated that 100,000 lives a year could be saved if people cut trans-fats out of their diets completely.

So what is a trans-fat? Trans-fats are artificially created by a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is adding hydrogen atoms to liquid vegetable oil. This process allows a longer shelf life and stabilizes the flavor. It is also cheaper than other fats, like butter or lard, so many food manufacturers prefer to use it. About 40% of the food on grocery store shelves contain trans-fat. Health officials in New York City estimate that 30% of the restaurants use trans-fats or fry food in them.

Once in the blood stream, trans-fats raise bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL) and lower good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, HDL). Trans-fat may raise cholesterol twice as much as saturated fat, which makes it one of the major contributors to heart disease deaths crippling Americans. There are more than 1.4 million Americans dying from heart disease each year. In a Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, those who eat more trans-fat were 53% more likely to develop heart disease than those in the study eating low amounts of trans-fat. The high risk group was consuming 6.7 grams a day. You can find the same number of trans-fat in fast food French fries fried in partially hydrogenated oil. Higher incidence of diabetes and gallstone disease may be linked to trans-fat as well.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) estimates that there is no safe amount of trans-fat to eat. No one is sure exactly how much trans-fat Americans are eating. One tablespoon of margarine has 3 grams, one doughnut has 5 grams. The best thing you can do is cut trans-fat out of your diet completely. Your heart will thank you. Frito-Lay chips and Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers have already taken out trans-fat from their food. Most companies still have not taken trans-fat out of their products. There are two grocery store chains that carry no products with trans-fat, Whole Foods and Wild Oats. If you want to rid your diet of trans-fat, you are going to have to read food labels carefully. Besides the grams of trans-fat in the product, you need to check the serving size as well. Some products have small serving sizes to keep their grams total down.

If you want to keep trans-fat out your diet, there are things you can do. Cooking your own food is one of the best ways. You then know what style you are cooking with. Good oils to use are olive, grape seed, rice bran, canola, corn, and safflower oil. Staying away from restaurants that use trans-fat would also be advisable. Look for foods that contain essential fats that our bodies want, like the avocado.

With a little extra effort you can take trans-fat out of your diet. Taking trans-fat out of your diet may be the single best thing you can do to lower your risk of heart disease. There is no known health value of trans-fat, so your body won’t be missing anything if you completely get rid of them in your diet.

Copyright (c) 2007 Charles Carter