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TRANS FATS
How Do They Impact Your Weight Loss Program?

Basics:

Trans Fats represent a special category of unsaturated fats, which have one thing in common: They are highly detrimental to our health. Most commonly, they are the result of industrial processing (partial hydrogenation) of vegetable oils. The process consists of adding hydrogen atoms under high pressure to the fatty acid molecules. This production technology was developed in the early 1900's, and resulted in the marketing of margarine and shortenings such as Crisco.


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Chemical Formula:

The hallmark of trans fat is the position of hydrogen atoms on either side of the double carbon-atom bond (the trans isomer configuration), as opposed to the normal configuration where the hydrogen atoms are on the same side of the double bond (the cis isomer configuration).


Health Effects:

Trans fat has been blamed for the great increase in cardiovascular disease in recent years. And as time goes by, it is increasingly incriminated in all sorts of 'health disasters'. Here is a list (which doesn't claim to be exhaustive):

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes type 2
  • High cholesterol levels - with the LDL (bad) cholesterol increasing and the HDL (good) cholesterol decreasing.
  • Possible connection with prostate cancer and colon cancer
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Obesity: Fats of this type appear to promote weight gain and increase abdominal fat deposits, despite a similar calorie intake.

Foods to Avoid:

Lately, a concerted effort has been made to ban trans fats from the food production industry. Reading the nutrition labels of food products in the grocery store, you will find that many of them indicate zero content of trans fats. If you find a product that reads differently, the most prudent action is to put it back on the shelf.

To name a few grocery store items that still contain this highly damaging type of fats:

  • certain cookie brands (e.g., Little Debbie, TastyKake, etc)
  • many cake and pie mixes and toppings
  • most pizza brands

Unfortunately, fats of this type are used on a rather large scale in today's restaurant industry, where they can be found in hydrogenated vegetable oils and shortening used for deep frying. This occurs most frequently in fast food chains (French fries lovers be warned!), but may also be encountered in better quality restaurants and eateries.

happy-cows
      Cow meat and cow milk contain trans fat in small amounts.

A noteworthy fact is that such fats occur naturally in the milk and meat of cows and sheep in small quantities (2-5% of total fat).

According to the nutritional guidelines of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), there is no safe level of trans fat consumption. The recommended daily allowance for this type of fats is zero: They do not have any role in the human body, and are not necessary for any of its functions. It is unclear at this point in time whether the small amount of such fats naturally occurring in cow and sheep products constitutes a health hazard comparable to that of industrially hydrogenated oils and shortenings. It has been argued that the naturally occurring fats are qualitatively different from the ones derived through industrial processing, and therefore do not pose similar health risks. This issue is still being debated, and there doesn't seem to be a universally accepted answer. The comparison between the 2 categories of fats is confounded by the significantly lower fat amount present in the respective meat and milk products, which in itself could account for a proportionally decreased health risk. The thing to remember is this: If consuming meat products or whole milk from cows and sheep, it is prudent to do so in moderation.


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