Partially Hydrogenated Trans-fats
Your cells are defined by your membranes. They not only separate your cells from another, they also determine how your cells communicate with each other and govern their internal actions. Membranes are composed mostly of oils, with some protein and carbohydrate. The oils are continually renewed and replaced. Their composition is affected by the kinds of oils in your diet. Thus the very basic and crucial actions of cells and the proper functioning of your body are to a great extent dependent on the oils you consume every day.
The oils you consume or apply to your body are chosen in part by what is available to you from the food and cosmetics industry. It is the story of what happens when capitalism has no rules and science is supported by industry. It is odd that our government has the power and the will to force the recall of strollers and scooters, etc. when deemed unsafe yet not the will or conscience to outlaw a poison in your food – trans fats. All partially hydrogenated vegetables oils contain trans fats.
To be fair, trans fats include conjugated linoleic acid and vaccenic acid that originate in the rumenof beef, sheep, goats, and deer ending up in their meat and milk products (butter contains up to 4% trans fats). However these trans fats have different chemical configurations than the manufactured version found in processed foods.
Health and nutrition information changes so often that you may be thinking that trans fats sound like one more in a long string of things that are not good for you. Perhaps you expect that like so many other foods, trans fats will be proven to be good for us or at least not as bad as once reported. No such possibility with trans fats. There has never been any scientific evidence of benefit from trans fats.
One major reason that trans fats have been allowed to persist is that food additives in use before the FDA enacted the Food Additive Amendment in September 6, 1958 did not require FDA approval. In other words, trans fats were grandfathered in as acceptable because they were in use as of 1958.
In the late 1970’s Mary Enig, Ph.D. at the University of Baltimore showed that addition of hydrogenated vegetable oil caused disruptive life patterns and lowered disease resistance. Initially ridiculed, Dr. Enig’s research began to be proven by others. In 1982 Kritchevsky published in Federation Proceedings about the effect of trans fat on the development of atherosclerosis. Many more publications in the top medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, etc. on the risks of trans fats appeared before our government took action. On July 10, 2002, the government’s advisor on health policy, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, reported that manufactured trans fatty acids is an ingredient that has no safe level for human consumption. In the words of the report, trans fats has an “upper intake level of zero.”
Because trans fats accumulate, the poisoning is cumulative. Because there is no immediate visible effect of consuming trans fats the warning signs are missed until the damage is done years later. Here is what has been documented about trans fats thus far:
- Trans fats are absorbed in to your cell membrane where healthy essential fats should be integrated. The human lipase enzyme is ineffective with the trans configuration, so trans fat remains in the blood stream for a much longer period of time and is more prone to arterial deposition and subsequent plaque formation. Once in your cell membrane, trans fats can not be replaced.
- Trans fats irreversibly disrupt cell membrane function and communication with other cells.
- Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol levels in your blood, which is the opposite of the ideal cardiovascular ratio. The Nurses Health Study I and II and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, Harvard School of Public Health, etc. provide consistent evidence that trans fats consumption increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Even the American Heart Association is in agreement – “Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.” In 1994, Willett WC, Ascherio A was estimated that trans fats caused 30,000 deaths annually in the US from heart disease. (Am J Public Health 85 (3): 411–2).
- Trans fats alter arterial wall function leading to soft, weak, and stiff arteries which are susceptible to lesions, injury, and subsequent plaque formation.
- Esther Lopez-Garcia (The Journal of Nutrition 2005;135(3):562–6) studied over 700 nurses. Those consuming the most trans fat had blood levels of CRP that were 73% higher than those consuming the least trans fats. CRP is an indicator of inflammation and when elevated predicts cardiovascular disease.
- Trans fats pass from a pregnant woman’s placenta to her unborn child. The unborn child’s metabolism is adversely affected by trans fats in proportion to the amount consumed by its mother.
- Lactating mothers who consume substantial amounts of manufactured trans fats have less cream in their breast milk, since trans fats can lodge in the cellular spaces normally reserved for fatty acids. The cream is essential for maximum breast development of an infant.
- Diets high in manufactured trans fat correlate with the risk of type 2 diabetes as observed in The continuing Nurses’ Health Study I and II and the Health Professional Follow-up Study Conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health – a cohort of over 300,000 individuals.
- Trans fats inhibit the absorption of vitamin K into bones. Vitamin K is essential for healthy bone formation and strength.
- Chavarro Jorge, et al. (Proc. Amer. Assoc. Cancer Res 2006; 47) did a prospective study suggestive of a link between trans fat intake and prostate cancer.
- Research published by Anna Gosline in New Scientist (2006) indicates that trans fat may increase weight gain and abdominal fat, despite a similar caloric intake.
- M Mahfouz published a study (Acta biologica et medica germanica 1981;40(12):1699–1705) showing that trans fats are metabolized differently by the liver than other fats and interfere with delta 6 desaturase, which is an enzyme involved in converting essential fatty acids to arachidonic acid and prostaglandins both of which are important to the functioning of cells.
- In a retrospective study (Fertil Steril, 2007) involving 104 women reporting one or more pregnancies (participants in the Princeton School cardiovascular risk study) were followed for 25-30 years. Results indicate that increased dietary intake of trans fatty acids may be associated with an increased risk of fetal loss. The results also suggest that lower dietary intake of trans fat may be associated with a lower risk of fetal loss.
You would think that given the obvious and incontrovertible evidence there would not be any trans fats allowed in our food supply. Denmark became the first country to introduce laws strictly regulating the sale of many foods containing trans fats in March 2003. Other countries and cities are following suit.
However, the FDA still allows trans fats in our food supply due to the enormous influence of food and oil industries. Instead of mandating the elimination of trans fats from food as Denmark did, the FDA instituted a labeling requirement mandating that by 2006 all manufactured foods packaged foods indicate the presence of trans fats. They also gave the food processing industry a loophole. The FDA permits manufacturers to claim “zero grams trans fats” or “no trans fats” if it contains less than 0.5gm of trans fats per serving. Of course, anything can have “zero” using this method by reducing the size of the serving.
The moral responsibility of the FDA has once again been usurped by corporate rather than public interests. As a result, you must be responsible for safe guarding yourself from trans fats by reading ingredients of every label:
- Any product that lists partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, whether it is derived from soy, coconut, canola, palm, cottonseed, corn, safflower, etc. There is no oil that is safe once it has been partially hydrogenated.
- Margarine, mono hydrogenated oils, vegetable shortening, shortening, hardened vegetable oil all contains trans fats and should be avoided no matter what the label claims. Furthermore, 0.5g of trans fats is like taking a 500mg capsule of trans fats. Benecol, for example contains 0.5gm of fat per 1 ½ teaspoonfuls. You are told to use it liberally, two to three times a day. That is a large amount of trans fats! As little as 2 grams daily of trans fats was associated with a 21% increase in coronary heart disease according to the findings of the Nurse’s Study of Harvard’s School of Public Health.
- Trans fats also occur in fast foods. It is estimated that an average meal from McDonald’s contains 3 grams of trans fat. Remember the Institute of Medicine warned there is no safe level for trans fats.
- Always question advertising on any box that says: low cholesterol, no cholesterol, trans free, TFA-free, or fat-free. The FDA leaves a lot of room for hiding trans fats. Look for products that state “no hydrogenated oils” or “hydrogenated oil free.”
- This list below is not all inclusive but presents some foods that you may not equate with trans fats but were loaded with them at the time of this publication:
- Carr’s crackers. Ritz
- Some ice creams
- Belgian chocolates.
- Wheat Thins.
- Pizza dough
- Krispy Kremes donuts
- Cheese Doritos
- Packaged cheeses
- Frozen snacks (pizza, pot pies, quiches, burritos, etc)
- Cupcake and cake icings
- Pepperidge Farms Gold fish
- Microwave popcorns
- Fried foods
- Hot chocolate mixes
- Cool Whip
- Most potato chips
Foods that should not contain manufactured trans fats are all on the Page Fundamental Food Plan:
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
- Proteins from grass-fed meat, poultry, fish, eggs, etc.
- Nuts, seeds, berries
- Butter, peanut oil, extra virgin olive oil, expeller-pressed coconut oil