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Die for Trans Fats
Photo: Ajay Singh
Disturbing research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that people who regularly succumb to processed foods like burgers, fries, cookies, pies, pastries, and certain margarine spreads can easily consume high levels of trans fats (10-25 grams per day), now recognized to be four to five times more harmful than even saturated fats in promoting heart disease!

Consuming five grams of trans fats daily is known to increase heart disease risk by 25 percent. Yet it’s possible to eat 30 grams in just one meal if you choose certain chicken nuggets, French fries, crackers, and microwave popcorn.

Why are they so bad? Apart from increasing harmful LDL-cholesterol while lowering the protective HDL type, trans fats promote insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and may contribute more to weight gain than other types of fats! They also cross the placenta and escape into breast milk and have been linked to reduced birth weight and brain size in babies.

Where are they found?

Where are they found? Most trans fats eaten today are manufactured by the food industry, which uses a process called hydrogenation to harden vegetable oils, prolonging their shelf life and giving them a characteristic that makes snack foods more crisp and fried foods less soggy. A smaller amount of trans fats comes from meat and dairy products, especially ruminant animals such as cattle, goats, and sheep.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine suggests that there is no safe level of trans fat and that we should eat as little as possible. Some experts recommended less than 1 gram per day.

How do I avoid them? The United States and Canada require labeling of trans fats. Denmark now limits the amount allowed in foods so it is nearly impossible to consume more than 1 gram on a daily basis. There is no mandatory requirement to declare trans fats in Australia and New Zealand unless a claim is made about cholesterol or other fats present.

Tip: Avoid deep-fried foods, processed snack foods, full-cream dairy products, and fatty meats. While some margarines have been reformulated, certain less expensive brands may still contain high levels. Avoid any food with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredient list.

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By Sue Radd. Reprinted with permission from Signs of the Times, April 2007. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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