Trans fats or Trans fatty acid is the short form for transformed fatty acid. All hydrogenated oils are trans fats. The body needs fats in order to function properly, but can become sick from the ingestion of hydrogenated oils and trans fats. What the body really needs are essential fatty acids, in the form of whole foods like olives, avocados, nuts and seeds, and moderate amounts of healthy fats like those found in unpasteurized, non-homogenized, cultured dairy products. If healthy fat is not provided for the body, it will try to get fat from other sources, most likely from junk food and processed food, the main culprits containing deadly hydrogenated oils.
To hydrogenate oil, hydrogen is bubbled through the oil with a nickel catalyst at more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. We are the first generation, ever, to eat oils that have been subjected to this process. These high temperatures twist the molecules’ shape. Imagine what your body would look like if it were to be boiled at high temperatures!
Our bodies do not recognize that the trans fats are harmful, and thus try to use them; however, they fit into cell membranes like broken keys and stop the cell’s proper function. A normal, healthy essential fatty acid molecule (called cis fats) is curved, whereas a trans fatty acid is straight. Regular cis fats are curved and so do not stick together, and remain fluid-like in the blood. The trans fatty acid molecules are straight, making them easier to lock together, causing cholesterol and saturated fats to stick on to the molecules and increasing fatty deposits in the arteries, liver and other organs. This increases the chance of blood clotting, strokes and heart attacks. A trans fatty acid cannot correctly perform the function of a regular cis fat, thereby causing havoc once inside the body.
Interestingly enough, the trans fat content of foods is not well documented. I personally find it odd that although many foods contain trans fats, few companies, if any, disclose how much trans fat is in the food item, leaving the consumer to “guestimate” the amount. There is one study done by Exler et al for the Nutrient Data Laboratory of the US department of Agriculture, which assessed the trans- fat level in 214 food products.
The top ten products for trans fat as a percentage of total content were:
There is a good chance that you are ingesting one, if not more, of these foods on a daily basis if you aren’t careful of what you put into your body.
Notice is the large variations between the maximum and minimum trans fat content for each product. In the case of shortening, spread and margarine, this variation is caused by the manufacturing process, and shows that the trans fat content can be controlled to some extent during the hydrogenation process. Either way, unless the trans fat content is specified on the product, you should avoid using these fats, because of the potentially high level of trans fats.