The use of trans fatty acids in our commercial food supply is a widely discussed topic today. These artificially made substances are so prevalent in the food supply that most of us are unknowingly consuming it in large amounts every single day.
Research shows that trans fatty acids can increase belly fat and consuming even small amounts is consistently associated with coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction. Studies indicate a 32% higher risk of coronary heart disease or myocardial infarction. They contribute to heart disease by raising the levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), lowering the levels of HDL (good cholesterol), increasing the amount of triglycerides in the blood stream and promoting systemic inflammation. The research also shows that trans fatty acids can increase visceral fat, contribute to insulin resistance, increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and can adversely affect every cell in our body.
What are Trans Fatty Acids
Trans fatty acids (TFA’s) are industrially manufactured substances that are widely used as an ingredient in commercial food products which include fast foods, bakery goods, restaurant foods, and packaged food items. They are found in the ingredients list of food products and is labelled as “partially hydrogenated” oil.
This ingredient is not a natural substance with the exception of some ruminant-derived TFA’s in certain dairy products. Man made trans fatty acids come mostly from the industrial hydrogenation of vegetable oils. This process alters the chemical structure of the oil and it’s natural cis configuration changes to the trans configuration.
In 1994, following a petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest to the Food and Drug Administration, to put trans fatty acids on food labels, it became a subject of concern in the USA and some states even banned the use of trans fatty acids in restaurant foods.
Trans fatty acids are still widely used in our food and lot of people are eating them every day, as part of their daily diet. It is estimated that its intake in the United States averages 2-3% of total energy intake, 4% in some developing countries and as high as 8-10% in certain subgroups who eat large amounts of baked goods, fried foods, pastries, doughnuts, etc.
Why Food Manufacturers still Use This Fake Additives
Even Though frans fatty acids are found to be so dangerous to our health, food manufacturers widely use it mainly because they are cheap, offer prolonged shelf life, provide solidity at room temperature and increase suitability for commercial frying. This solid fat helps food stay fresh longer and tastes better.
Numerous health professionals warn people to stay away from TFA’s largely linking the skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease to the continued use of these artificial fake food additives.
Researchers from Harvard says, “A comprehensive strategy to eliminate the use of industrial TFA in both developed and developing countries, including education, food labeling, and policy and legislative initiatives, would likely prevent tens of thousands of CHD events worldwide each year.”
Although most people have heard of TFA’s, the bad news is that this increased awareness has not been enough to change their eating habits or translate into a behavior change. There are still people who even do not know to name few food sources that contain trans fats on their own.
What you really need are some simple behavioral guidelines and awareness about a list of foods to eat very infrequently.
Eating Guidelines To Avoid or Minimize the Intake of TFA's
If your diet consists primarily of fruits, fibrous vegetables, root vegetables, beans, legumes, brown rice, unprocessed whole grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish and lean meats, and you usually don’t eat anything that comes in a box or package with a label, then you’re probably free from consuming this man-made substance called TFA’s.
Trans fatty acids are commonly found in baked goods (bakery), fried foods and packaged convenience foods.
Below are a list of common foods (store bought) that might contain TFA’s.
French fries (fried potatoes)
Margarines and spreads
Some salad dressings
Some artificial cheeses
Packaged frozen foods (breaded chicken, breaded fish, etc)
Because of its wide usage most people are unable or unwilling to eliminate TFA’s from their diet completely. The recommendation of the American Heart Association is to cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil to reduce the intake of trans fatty acids through diet. It would be wise for the sake of your health and your family’s health, to keep foods containing TFA’s to a bare minimum and avoid eating any TFA-laden foods on a daily basis.
WHO recommends that the total trans fat intake be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake. WHO also works with governments, the food industry, academia and civil society to make food systems healthier for future generations, including by eliminating industrially-produced trans fats.
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