Trans Fat is the common name for unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fat is fat molecules containing one or more double bonds between the carbon atoms.
Trans fats can be natural or artificial. Small amounts occur naturally in beef and dairy, but that’s not the problem. The problem is the artificial trans fats which are made when hydrogen reacts with oil.
Before I lose you, let’s take a little trip back in history ….
WHERE TRANS FATS CAME FROM:
- 1901 ~ a German chemist named Wilhelm Normann found that liquid oils could be hydrogenated to form fatty acids. He patented it in 1902. It took him until 1909 until the fat could be successfully produced and when it was…
- 1909 ~ Proctor and Gamble acquired the rights to the Normann patent
- 1911 ~ The production of Crisco began as well as the introduction of trans fats into our foods
- 1937 ~ World War II begins and consumers are buying margarine instead of butter due to the rationing of butter
- 1950s ~ The American Heart Association warns consumers about consuming too many saturated fats and suggests reducing them
- 1980s ~ Advocacy groups want fast food chains to stop using saturated fats. In response to this, chains start using partially hydrogenated oils with trans fats in them
- 1993 ~ After studies revealed the risks associated with trans fats, advocacy groups now call for fast food chains to stop using them
- 2006 ~ The Govt’s agrees with researchers and states there is no safe level of trans fats in the diet. Listing the trans fat on labels becomes mandatory in the US
WHY ARE TRANS FATS BAD FOR YOU?
Again, I am not a science major here and I’m sure this topic goes way beyond my attention span. But what I do know is this… there are 2 types of fat, hard and soft. Through engineering we have managed to make a soft fat hard, like Crisco. This is done by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oil. It creates a stiffer fat. This confuses our bodies in ways we are still discovering. Both saturated fats and trans fats raise your bad cholesterol (LDL). But trans fats have the added bonus of DECREASING the good (HDL) cholesterol too.
The sad part is we don’t NEED trans fats. They are used purely to make our food stay on shelves indefinitely.
According to the University of Maryland, “No human body has any need for these man-made fats. Food manufacturers started putting them in products because they allow for a longer shelf life. Crackers, for example, can stay on the shelf and stay crispy for years in part because of the hydrogenated fats in them.”
FDA TO THE RESCUE:
In agreement with the research that had been conducted on trans fats, in Jan 2006, the FDA came up with a ridiculous set of guidelines requiring food companies to disclose the amounts of trans fats in them
Score one for the little people right? Wait!
Here’s the thing…. if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving the manufacturer can list the trans fats as ZERO! ZERO! So if a food has .49 grams of trans fats they can label it as ZERO.
Now this is where it gets better…the serving size. Who ever eats one serving of anything? We statistically eat 2, 3 and 4 servings! So if you ate 3 servings of a food that contained .49 grams of trans fats (labeled as zero remember) you just consumed about 1.5 full grams of trans fats! Meanwhile thinking you’re getting zero!
To put this in perspective the recommended daily intake (according to the American Heart Association) of trans fats is 2 grams a day which is equivalent to 4 servings of a ZERO snack food. That’s downright scary! Here people think they are doing the right thing and watching their intake of trans fats and it’s STILL disguised!!!
And lastly, don’t think the food manufacturers don’t know this. They mess around with the serving sizes to get them just under the .49 mark so it can be listed as zero! Don’t fall for it.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND TRANS FATS?
Crackers and cookies
Potato chips and Corn chips