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Are Trans Fats Lurking In Your Pantry?

Oct. 1, 2014|768 views
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Unfortunately, most of those gains were attributable to the elimination of a widespread toxin in the food supply: trans fatty acids.

Trans fats represent everything that’s wrong with America’s obsession with factory-farmed, pre-packaged, prepared, artificially-flavored, preserved, and colored foods. Trans fats, a form of unsaturated fat, rarely exist in nature. Rather, they were synthesized in the laboratory (which is, sadly, where much of the food America eats get its start). Trans fats first entered the American mainstream in the form of Crisco, the shortening sold in a can, in the early 20th century. Made mostly of partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, the stuff was embraced by the public, and manufacturers of shelf-stable packaged goods embraced it soon thereafter. By the mid-1950s the first inklings that these artificial fats could be linked to heart disease risk began to emerge, but, sadly, it took nearly another half century before scientists—and the public at large—finally recognized the extent of the danger posed by this synthetic foodstuff.

The National Academy of Sciences sounded the warning bell in the early 2000s, and by 2006, an analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine stated: “…from a nutritional standpoint, the consumption of trans fatty acids results in considerable potential harm but no apparent benefit.” That’s an understatement. A decade earlier, scientists writing in the medical journal Circulation noted that more than 30,000 deaths from heart attack could be attributed to dietary trans fats. That’s 30,000 deaths each year. Research also suggests that these toxic fats may be linked to greater risks of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, depression, and obesity, among others. 

Despite all this evidence, it took until 2003 before manufacturers were even forced to list the presence of trans fats in their products. The rule finally took full effect in 2008. To date, there’s still no ban on these toxins in our foods. What’s worse, if there’s one-half gram of the stuff per serving, manufacturers can list the amount as “zero”.

This is a big problem, because many of us who are conscientious enough to check labels may be duped into believing we’re safe, when in fact, we may not be. It’s still possible that you’re consuming non-negligible amounts of this toxic sludge—and you don’t even know it. Look for clues, such as “partially-hydrogenated” anything on the ingredients list. This is another name for trans fatty acids. 

Mozaffarian D1, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC.Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease.N Engl J Med. 2006 Apr 13;354(15):1601-13.

"Tentative Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils". Federal Register. 8 November 2013. 2013-26854, Vol. 78, No. 217. Archived from the original on April 6, 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2013.

Willett W, Ascherio, A (1994). "Trans Fatty Acids: Are the Effects Only Marginal?". Circulation 84 (5): 722–724. doi:10.2105/ajph.84.5.722.


Tags:  healthy fats, health tips, mediterranean diet