There are two main types of trans fats in foods: natural fats and artificial fats. Natural fats are produced in the intestines of certain animals, which prepare food products, such as milk and meat products.
Artificial trans fats, or trans fatty acids, are created in an industrial process that adds liquid vegetable oils to make the foods more solid.
Which foods contain trans fats?
Trans fats are found in many foods, including fried foods such as donuts, pastries, cakes, cake creams, cookies, frozen pizzas, crackers, margarine and mayonnaise. The amount of trans fats in packaged foods can be determined by looking at the table of nutritional values.
But food products may still be labeled as “zero grams of trans fat” if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving. Trans fats can also be identified by reading the list of ingredients and looking for ingredients called “partially hydrogenated fats”.
Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, including beef and lamb. There have not been enough studies to determine whether the bacteria found in trans fats in these products have the same negative effect on cholesterol levels as industrial trans fats.
How does trans fats affect health?
These fats increase bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower HDL cholesterol. Eating trans fats increases the risk of heart disease and a stroke. It is also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Before 1990, little was known about how trans fats were bad for your health. In 1990, research began to identify the negative health effects of trans fats. Based on these findings, new regulations were issued for labeling trans fats, and their consumption has declined in the in recent decades.
Unfortunately, some people still consume high levels of trans fats based on their food choices.
The dangerous effects of trans fats on pregnancy
The science of recent years slowly reveals that nutrition during pregnancy may have a lasting impact on the baby’s health, and often continue to affect it throughout adulthood. Naturally, when the mother eats foods that contain trans fats and processed foods, oils, sweets or fried food, it affects the normal development of the fetus, endangers the pregnancy, and affects the quality of the milk it produces.
Given the popularity of these products and the fact that the development of brain function depends on fat intake, there should be more awareness with regards to the effect of trans fats have on the brains of unborn children.
Memory problems and increased emotional responses
When a woman consumes trans fats during pregnancy, it causes significant damage that affects the fetal brain cells. On the other hand, oils rich in omega-3 do the opposite.
Protecting the fetal brain from oxidative damage, memory loss, emotional behaviour and mania behaviour is possible when the mother eats fat fish or other omega-3 rich foods or supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so the fetus develops emotionally stable and its brain is significantly protected from oxidative damage.
The food industry has learned nothing
Despite the fact that trans fats have been shown to be damaging to cardiovascular health since the 1990s, they are still being sold in large quantities, thanks to two highly desirable traits: they are cheap and have a long shelf life. Products made from trans fats last long, compared to products made with natural fats.
Trans fats undergo extensive industrial processing at high temperatures, with various chemical solvents, which remain in small quantities in the final product. This process is responsible for their unnatural components, and of course for their toxic nature.
So next time you are a grocery store, check the labels and go with the good fats:
- Organic butter
- Plus other nuts, like almonds and pistachios
- Nut and seed butters
- Olive oil
- Ground flaxseed