Not a food

The best way to describe trans fats or TFA (trans fatty acids), also called partially-hydrogenated oils, is that they are a form of manufactured or synthetic fat which is unfamiliar to the body’s digestive system.

The Food industry touts the advantage of trans fats as slowing food spoilage from rancidity. But therein lays a clue about the danger of trans fats. If microbes that normally cause spoilage can’t recognize trans fats as food, then it’s NOT food. To bacteria and molds, trans fats are more akin to a soft plastic than true fats.

It’s the same for humans. Continuous consumption of trans fats causes a virtual cascade of problems in the body which can lead to or exacerbate many forms of cardiovascular disease including coronary disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke, arteriosclerosis, as well as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity7, 8, cancer and other potentially fatal diseases.

As the body attempts to digest trans fats, the trans fats cause systemic inflammation4, liver dysfunction, and damage to the function of the cell membranes.1, 4

Trans fats may compromise fetal and early infant growth and development,2 cause infertility in women, and contribute to cognitive decline6.

The consumption of trans fats raises blood levels of the unhealthy low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol, while reducing levels of healthy, high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol.5

The cumulative costs to our health care system over decades of industry-masked pervasive use and consumption of trans fats in our food has to be in the tens (if not hundreds) of billions of dollars.

So why is it allowed?

All about shelf life and profits

If trans fats are so toxic, why is the food industry allowed to use them so pervasively? Follow the money; it’s all about shelf life and profits. Think of the profits of having 10%, 30% or 50% less spoilage, or the commercial advantage of being able to extend the expiry dates of products by 800% or more! Furthermore, trans fats can be made very cheaply, thus they further heighten the profit margins of the mass food producers.

Industry has known all along

Knowing, full well, the negative physiological effects of trans fats upon consumers, the food industry has been quick to respond, but not as you might think. Rather that remove trans fats from the processed foods we eat, instead, whole new industries and profit centres sprang up as their way of pretending to fix the problem.

Since trans fats cause higher production of bad cholesterol (LDL), a whole new market for premium-priced “low cholesterol” foods was created. Not to miss the action, the pharmaceutical industry jumped in with its cholesterol-lowering “statins” and has enjoyed a virtual feeding frenzy, to this day, selling statins (with its own associated health risks)11, 13 to combat cholesterol.

Little attention has been paid to the fact that trans fats and statins also lower good cholesterol (HDL), which is used by the body to convert sunlight into Vitamin D12. Deficiency in Vitamin D causes another whole cascade of health problems.

Deceptive labeling

Enlightened consumer-complaints, that the disclosure of trans fat content on product labeling is confusing and misleading, have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Even worse, it appears that Government regulators allow, in fact, foster deliberate industry deceit of trans fat content, through false and misleading labeling gimmickry.

Food producers are allowed to put “0 g” of Trans Fats on their labels if the amount is 500 mg or less per “serving”.14  By reducing the serving size to a fraction of what a person would realistically use, one will frequently encounter products (i.e.: some brands of peanut butter, for example) that will say “Trans Fats: 0 g.”, and show “hydrogenated vegetable oil” as the second or third ingredient. So, unsuspecting conscientious mothers may still be loading their kids with trans fats, consciously making an effort not to do so, all because of trick labeling.

(A good tip when it comes to buying peanut butter, is to reach for the jar that describes the ingredients as “just peanuts”. The peanut oil will be separated at the top, but all one has to do is thoroughly mix it once, then keep it in the refrigerator so that it will remain mixed.)

The fact remains that, from a nutritional point of view, the consumption of trans fats is not safe at any level9. To the body, it’s a foreign chemical like any other toxic substance and should not be allowed in our food. Yet, there it remains.

The news isn’t all bad, though. With no credit due to the regulators, but rather to an enlightened public using internet communication tools such this, a growing number food processors, restaurants, etc. are acting ahead of the regulators, to reduce the use of trans fats in their products in order to preserve their markets.9

However, honest labeling, at the very least, must still be made mandatory.10

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  1. Kilmer S. McCully, Martha McCully,  “The Heart Revolution”, Book; Harper Perennial, ISBN: 0-06-092973-1 (pbk.), pp45
  2. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:212-5. “Role of trans fatty acids in health and challenges to their reduction in Indian foods.” (Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296340)
  1. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;63 Suppl 2:S5-21. “Health effects of trans-fatty acids: experimental and observational evidence.” Mozaffarian D, Aro A, Willett WC. (Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19424218)
  1. Atheroscler Suppl. 2006 May;7(2):29-32. Epub 2006 May 18. “Trans fatty acids – effects on systemic inflammation and endothelial function. Mozaffarian D. (Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16713393)
  1. Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2011 Jul;31(181):56-9. [Trans-fatty acids–effects on coronary heart disease].[Article in Polish] Karbowska J, Kochan Z. (Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21870712)
  1. Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2011 Jul-Sep;5(3):161-4. Epub 2012 May 1. “Overview of trans fatty acids: biochemistry and health effects.”Bhardwaj S, Passi SJ, Misra A. (Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22813572)
  1. Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2010 Dec 27;64:650-8. [Dietary trans-fatty acids and metabolic syndrome]. [Article in Polish] Kochan Z, Karbowska J, Babicz-Zielińska E. (Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21228440)
  1. Mercola.com Website, How Trans Fats Accelerate the Obesity Epidemic; Mercola, JM. (Website Link: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2006/11/11/how-trans-fats-accelerate-the-obesity-epidemic.aspx)
  1. Mercola.com Website, Trans-Fat: What Exactly is it, and Why is it so Dangerous? Mercola, JM. (Website Link: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/07/19/trans-fat-part-three.aspx)
  1. Science Daily, “Call for Truth in Trans Fats Labeling by US FDA: Study Shows How Deceptive Food Labels Lead to Increased Risk of Deadly Diseases”; (Website Link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110103110325.htm)
  1. NaturalNews.com. “Statins news, articles and information” (Website Link: http://www.naturalnews.com/statins.html)
  1. NaturalNews.com – Vitamin D precursors require cholesterol for conversion. (Website Link: http://www.naturalnews.com/036491_vitamin_D_deficiency_starving.html)
  1. NaturalNews.com – Cholesterol is required by the body to synthesize vitamin D. Do Statin Drugs Cause Vitamin D Deficiency? (Website Link: http://www.naturalnews.com/027897_statin_drugs_vitamin_D.html)
  1. Deceptive Food Labels Can Result in Significant Intake of Trans Fat: http://www.a-health-blog.com/deceptive-food-labels-can-result-in-significant-intake-of-trans-fat.html

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