Why You Must Ditch Synthetic Trans Fats Now
Synthetic trans fats are unsaturated fats and are commonly found in processed foods and unfortunately still included in many diets. Synthetic trans fats are simply not good for your health! Original margarine is a good example of this. For many years, this synthetically based trans fat product was promoted as a healthy alternative to natural butter. Today, it’s clear this was untrue and butter, or other natural oils, eaten in moderation are way better for you.
As Harvard Health reports ..”Then the hazards of margarine came to light. Its high levels of trans fats packed a double whammy for heart disease by raising levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowering levels of HDL (good cholesterol). Many people felt betrayed or duped.”
“The truth is, there never was any good evidence that using margarine instead of butter cut the chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease. Making the switch was a well-intentioned guess, given that margarine had less saturated fat than butter, but it overlooked the dangers of trans fats.”
Why Are Synthetic Trans Fats So Bad For You?
Unlike saturated fats, all unsaturated fats have at least one double bond in their structure. This bond can be either “cis” (meaning same side) or “trans” (meaning opposite side). It describes the relation of the hydrogen atoms to the double bond. Synthetic trans fats have their hydrogen atoms on opposite sides. This is where the health problems originate. As your body will respond differently to this chemical structure.
Importantly synthetic trans fats should not be confused with natural trans fats.
NATURAL VS SYNTHETIC TRANS FATS
Natural trans fats are nothing to be concerned about, as long as they are consumed in moderation. These are found in the meat and dairy products of ruminant animals. They are formed when bacteria digest the grass in an animal’s stomach. These fats make up 2%-5% of the fat in dairy products and 3%-9% of the fat in beef and lamb.
In fact, the most well known ruminant trans fat is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is believed to be highly beneficial and is often taken as a supplement. It has also been associated with reduced risk of heart disease.
However, synthetic trans fats, also known as industrial and hydrogenated fats, are in no way positive. In fact, they can be quite damaging.
SYNTHETIC TRANS FATS
The process of pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils changes the chemical structure of the oil from liquid to solid. This allows the oils to have a much longer shelf life, and creates health havoc in your body.
While humans have been consuming natural trans fats for centuries, the same cannot be said for their synthetic counterparts. As a result, over-consumption has led to many health problems:
This is what you need to look out for.
INCREASED RISK OF HEART DISEASE:
Numerous clinical trials have examined the effects of synthetic trans fats on the heart. It was found that when humans replaced carbs with these fats, they experienced a significant increase in bad cholesterol (LDL), without an increase in good cholesterol (HDL). This is in contrast to the fact that most other fats increase both.
INSULIN SENSITIVITY AND HEART DISEASE:
While the relationship between synthetic trans fats and diabetes is not entirely clear, a study of over 80 000 women found that those who consumed the most trans fats had a 40% higher risk of diabetes.
Clinical trials have found that synthetic trans fats increase inflammatory markers such as IL-6 and TNF alpha when they take the place of other nutrients in the diet. Inflammation is believed to be one of the leading causes of many chronic illnesses.
What Is The Healthiest And Closest Taste Substitute?
In order to avoid synthetic trans fats, it’s essential that you read your labels. You can also work towards eliminating processed foods from your diet.
And remember a healthy diet is always about moderation.
- Swap margarine for butter. Still worried about butter? If you are trying to manage your cholesterol then there are also healthier alternatives to butter, such as olive oil.
- Do not use harmful vegetable oils when cooking. Rather substitute with for olive oil or coconut oil. Both these have proven health benefits. Moderation is key. Coconut Oil while very healthy is high in saturated fat and must be used moderately.
- Ditch the fast food. Not only is most fast food full of synthetic trans fats, it also contains hidden sugars. These are both detrimental to your health and weight management. Fast food should be substituted for home-cooked meals, which are made with more natural ingredients. And which you are in control of!
This article was originally researched and compiled by Savannah Freemantle and appeared in Longevity magazine South Africa. Now updated with additional comments by Gisèle Wertheim Aymes.