About Trans Fat
There are four kinds of fats: monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are the "good" fats. It is generally accepted that consumption of saturated fat should be kept low, especially for adults. Trans fat (which means trans fatty acids) is the worst kind of fat, far worse than saturated fat.
Partial hydrogenation is an industrial process used to make a perfectly good oil, such as soybean oil, into a perfectly bad oil. The process is used to make an oil more solid; provide longer shelf-life in baked products; provide longer fry-life for cooking oils, and provide a certain kind of texture or "mouthfeel." The big problem is that partially hydrogenated oil is laden with lethal trans fat.
It is only the trans fat created by the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils that we are concerned about and that should be eliminated completely from your diet. We are not concerned with the kind of naturally occurring trans fat found in small amounts in pomegranets, cabbage, peas, or the type found in the meat and milk of cows, sheep and goats.
Partially hydrogenated oils are commonly found in processed foods like commercial baked products such as cookies, cakes and crackers, and even in bread. They are also used as cooking oils (called "liquid shortening") for frying in restaurants.
One of the reasons that partially hydrogenated oils are used is to increase the product’s shelf life, but they decrease your shelf life.
Trans fats cause significant and serious lowering of HDL (good) cholesterol and a significant and serious increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol; make the arteries more rigid; cause major clogging of arteries; cause insulin resistance; cause or contribute to type 2 diabetes; and cause or contribute to other serious health problems.
Explanation of terms
LDL (bad) cholesterol: The main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries.
HDL (good) cholesterol: Carries cholesterol from the blood back to the liver, which processes the cholesterol for elimination from the body. HDL makes it less likely that excess cholesterol in the blood will be deposited in the coronary arteries. (HDL levels, to be considered "normal," should be at least 35 – 40 mg/DL.)
Blood vessels: There are three types of blood vessels: arteries, veins, and capillaries. The arteries carry blood away from the heart. The capillaries connect the arteries to veins. Finally, the veins carry the blood back to the heart.
How much trans fat is in the products that we eat?
How much trans fat do we consume in a day? Some of us are consuming virtually none, because we are being extremely selective about what we eat. Some of us are consuming in excess of 15 grams of trans fat per day. If that sounds unbelievable, look at the following figures:
* One McDonald’s large fries contains 8 grams of trans fat.
* A McDonald’s apple pie contains 4.5 grams of trans fat.
* Four Girl Scout shortbread cookies contain 1.5 grams of trans fat.
* A large order of KFC Popcorn Chicken contains 7 grams of trans fat.
* KFC’s Chicken Pot Pie contains 14 grams of trans fat.
* A typical 3-piece KFC Extra Crispy combo meal, with a drumstick, two thighs, potato wedges, and a biscuit contains 15 grams of trans fat.
Incidentally, don’t think that the problem is only at McDonald’s or other fast-food chains. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many other restaurants, including "quality" restaurants, fry their food in partially hydrogenated oil and served baked goods containing partially hydrogenated fat. Many of them serve larger portions with more trans fat than McDonald’s.
What not to eat
Here are six rules to help you avoid consuming partially hydrogenated oils. Don’t think for one minute that this is all you need to do for your heart and your health. Eliminating partially hydrogenated oils from your diet is just one piece of the puzzle. This is not the place to educate you about heart health and other medical issues. But if you don’t understand heart health, then learn about it – please – for your own and your family’s well-being. And if you are avoiding squarely facing up to the issue, and possibly kidding yourself, then go to a cardiologist for a checkup if you haven’t already done so. That applies to women too. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States.
1. Don’t eat any product which has the words "partially hydrogenated" or "shortening" in the ingredients list.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises:
Consumers can know if a food contains trans fat by looking at the ingredient list on the food label. If the ingredient list includes the words “shortening,” “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil,” the food contains trans fat. Because ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance, smaller amounts are present when the ingredient is close to the end of the list.
Note: Fully hydrogenated oils do not contain trans fat. However, if the word "hydrogenated" is used without the word "partially," that product may contain partially hydrogenated oil. Not all labeling is accurate and the word "partially" may have been wrongfully omitted on some products.
2. If the label says zero trans fats, don’t believe it. If the words "partially hydrogenated" or "shortening" are in the ingredients list, it DOES contain trans fat.
Under FDA regulations in effect in the United States, "if the serving contains less than 0.5 gram [of trans fat], the content, when declared, shall be expressed as zero." Suppose a product contains 0.4 grams per serving and you eat four servings (which is not uncommon). You have just consumed 1.6 grams of trans fat, despite the fact that the package claims that the product contains zero grams of trans fat per serving. Changing this rule is a high priority for BanTransFats.com. We are working on it.
(In Canada, the situation is not as bad. If the serving contains less than 0.2 grams of trans fat, the content may expressed as zero. Click here for the Canadian rules.)
3. Be careful when consuming products with labels from outside the United States. Sometimes they contain partially hydrogenated oil but it’s not on the label.
4. In restaurants, bakeries, and other eateries, ask whether they use partially hydrogenated oil for frying or baking or in salad dressings. If they say they use vegetable oil, ask whether it is partially hydrogenated. Don’t be shy about asking. Assume that all unlabeled baked and fried goods contain partially hydrogenated oil, unless you know otherwise.
Ask about that fried food. Ask about the oil in the salad dressing. Ask about that donut. Ask about that pie crust. Ask about that bread. When you ask, you are sending a message to the seller of the food that you don’t want trans fats.
5. Keep saturated fat intake low too. This is very important.
6. Remember that polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fats are good fats.
One more thing. Cholesterol that affects our arteries comes from two sources: (i) animal products and (ii) bad fats. If a product is "cholesterol fee," that doesn’t mean that it won’t raise your bad cholesterol. If the product itself contains no cholesterol but it does contain trans fat or saturated fat, it will raise your bad cholesterol.