Well, I am sure you have heard all of the hoopla in the news over the last number of months to a year about the new health hot topic of “TRANS FATS”. They even just sound strange don’t they? Say it with me “trans fats.” As I am sure you have probably heard through other media outlets or you have witnessed for yourself at the grocery store Trans fats are now in the process of being outlawed in North American food. But until then companies are required to label if their products contain Trans fats. However, because of all the bad publicity Trans fats have gotten over the last little while most companies are removing them anyways and are labeling that their products are Trans fat free. Like almost anything in the health and medical world there are words often developed to describe something that makes them seem distant and foreign to the average person, Trans fats is one of these type of situations. And like most people, including myself, we often hear a word like this so much that we really want to know exactly what it means and even if we don’t know we pretend like we do because everyone seems to be talking about them. So let’s see if we can simplify the meaning of Trans fats and take a look at what they actually are.
Trans fat is the short name for trans fatty acid. Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat. This is a fat or fatty acid where there are one or more double bonds in the fatty acid chain. When a Trans fat has only one double bond it is considered to be monounsaturated (mono = one double bond), and when there are more than one double bond than they are said to be polyunsaturated (poly = more than one double bond). In the case that a double bond is formed hydrogen atoms are eliminated from the chemical make up of a fat. Therefore, a saturated fat is one that is “saturated” with hydrogen atoms. In the case of unsaturated fats like Trans fats as the number of double bonds increase, making the fat even more polyunsaturated, it makes the fatty acid (in this case the trans fat) more vulnerable to lipid peroxidation. This is one of the reasons that trans fats are considered to be unhealthy. Lipid peroxidation is a process that results in free radicals stealing electrons from the lipids in the cell membranes of the unsaturated fat, resulting in the damage of the cell. The base of our health is in the cell. If our cells are damaged, our health on the whole is damaged.
Trans fats can occur naturally in meat and some dairy products, however, only in small quantities. In most cases today Trans fats are chemically developed in the laboratory, particularly as a side effect of the partial hydrogenation of plant oils; this process involves raising a fats melting point changing its molecular structure and reducing the ability of the fat to be broken down by oxidation. This process results in a portion of the original fat to be turned into a Trans fat.
Fats, like protein, and carbohydrates are both required for your health and can be beneficial. However, Trans fats serve neither of these purposes as they are neither required by the body or nor do they provide any health benefits. In fact, consuming Trans fats can increase ones risk of CHD or coronary heart disease. For this reason health authorities all over the planet are strongly recommended the reduction and elimination of Trans fats in our diets. Trans fats actually work to increase the so called bad cholesterol known as LDL (low-density lipid) cholesterol and they also decrease the levels of so called good cholesterol known as HDL (high-density lipid) cholesterol. Giving us a double shot of a bad outcome for our system in terms of helping to avoid coronary heart disease and other troubles brought on by high LDL cholesterol levels. Trans fats have also been linked to cancer, diabetes, obesity, and liver dysfunction. However, their relation to the increase in risk in CHD is better understood than their relation to these other diseases.
“So what’s the moral of the story?” Well, what I am trying to let you know is that in deed Trans fats are not good for you. You should be aware of them and try to stop eating them. When health topics like this become popular it is often for a reason because they must not be good for us.