I always hear conversations where people are saying how trans fats are bad and they should be limited or eliminated from your diet. And when I am in the grocery store I see a whole bunch of green, red or yellow print with “0 Trans Fat” on the labeling of various food items, typically with a picture of a heart somewhere nearby. And sometimes I will opt for an item that is labeled “0 trans fats” or “low trans fat” just because its “bad.” I do not go out of my way to avoid trans fats but if I buy something that has a 0 or low trans fat label I usually feel good about it. The truth is I knew nothing about trans fats except it was the worst fat of all the fats that you could have in your diet. Furthermore I made decisions based on hearsay.
Partially hydrogenated oils, also called trans fats, are man made fats. Trans fats are made through a process called hydrogenation where vegetable oils have hydrogen’s added to them. The word trans is referring to the arrangement of the carbon atoms across double bonds. The cis form of fat is natural. In the trans formation the chains of carbon atoms are on opposite sides of the double bond forming in a straight chain.
The straight chains are able to condense into a solid at human body temperature this can effect the nutrient flow of our cells causing plaque build up (because if it is solid it will not leave your body as fast as a liquid) which can increase your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Additionally the bonds of trans fats are unable to be broken down by the enzymes that usually breakdown fats in our body. Also because our cell walls are made of phospholipids trans fats are soluble and are able to be integrated into cell walls. When fats are incorporated into the cell wall the flexibility is compromised.
Trans fats lengthen the shelf life of foods. It also improves the texture and taste of the foods it is added to. And trans fats are inexpensive to produce.
The shocking news is that companies are allowed to label items as 0g trans fat when foods contain 0.5 grams or less of trans fats per serving. And serving sizes can be as small or as big as they prefer. Checking the serving size can be helpful. For instance, 1oz of a 5oz bag of chips with 0.5 grams of trans fat totals 2.5grams of trans fats; it is recommended to only have 2 or less grams of trans fats per day. The only way to know for sure if there are trans fats is to look in the ingredients section for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil it can be vegetable, soybean, coconut, or any other kind of oil. You would think that companies would care at least somewhat about their customer’s trust, enough not to deceive them with false labels just to make a profit.
(Meet the Trans fat HERE)