Trans fats are a type of fat found in certain foods. They can be added artificially or naturally. Natural trans fats are found in very small amounts in some animal products. On the other hand, artificially added trans fats are produced through a chemical reaction and are incorporated into various foods during the manufacturing process.
Studies suggest that both types of trans fats can increase the risk of heart disease by increasing LDL cholesterol and lowering HDL cholesterol ; however, studies looking at heart disease risk using natural trans fats are conflicting. There is also some evidence that artificial trans fats can cause inflammation , which can also contribute to heart disease. Because of this, you must limit the amount of trans fat in your diet .
How are trans fats formed?
Trans fats can be formed artificially through a chemical process called hydrogenation, which bombards an unsaturated fatty acid with hydrogen molecules and results in the formation of hydrogen atoms on opposite sides of the double bond in its chemical structure. Stimulating the formation of trans fats has several benefits for food manufacturers. Adding trans fat can help extend the shelf life of certain foods. It also helps some fats to harden at room temperature and makes some foods taste better.
Products containing trans fats
While meat and dairy products may contain small amounts of natural trans fats, artificially added trans fats are of great concern due to their presence and high content in some foods. These trans fats are most often introduced into foods through partially hydrogenated oils (sometimes called PHOs) during the manufacturing process. The following foods can be prepared with partially hydrogenated oils and should be avoided due to their potential to raise cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease :
- Fast food, including French fries and French fries.
- Some spreads, for example margarine spread or peanut butter.
- Some snacks like potato chips, crackers, and cupcakes.
- Fried foods, such as fried chicken, onion rings, and nuggets.
- Non-dairy cream
- Cake-ready frosting
- Vegetable shortening
- Ready-to-eat foods such as pie dough, pizza dough, and cookie dough.
- Cakes, donuts and tarts
Because of the risk that artificial trans fats pose in increasing the risk of heart disease, the FDA began requiring food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fat per serving on food labels in 2006 .
In 2015, the FDA declared artificial trans fats "generally unsafe" due to studies linking high trans fat intake to cardiovascular disease. After further investigating the effects of artificial trans fats, the FDA ruled that food manufacturers must find alternative cooking methods for processed foods that eliminate the use of PHO, the main source of artificial trans fats. fat in food. Food manufacturers had to develop ways to make their products without these fats by June 2018, or ask the FDA to use these fats in certain cases. The deadline was then extended until January 1, 2020 .
How to reduce the amount of trans fat in your diet
The American Heart Association recommends limiting and even avoiding trans fat intake in healthy diets. Although most foods should be free of trans fat, you can still reduce the amount of trans fat in your diet to lower lipids. For:
- Check the food label on the back of the food packaging. It should indicate the amount of trans fat per serving in the food. However, if the amount of trans fat per serving is less than 0.5 mg, food manufacturers may not list the trans fat content on the package .
- Limit the amount of food you eat from the list above. Although there are steps to remove all artificial trans fats from foods, foods such as baked goods, fast food, fried foods, and vegetable fat are still high in calories and saturated fat , which can negatively affect levels. cholesterol and triglycerides .