Trans Fats are Quite Certainly
The Worse Fats for Your Heart

Trans fats must be at the top of your list of things to avoid. You and I want to be health conscious. We try to watch our intake of saturated fats. We don’t eat as many sweets as we would like. I know I don’t.

But if we are not making every effort to avoid trans fats we are fighting only half the battle.

Many people today are fighting the battle against heart disease. But you and I are willing to go further than that. We have a positive approach. We are striving for optimal heart health. But if optimal heart health is what we want, we simply cannot ignore the dangers of trans fatty acids.

But how bad can they be? That is the question before us now. To answer it we will look at the following topics.

  • Where Do Trans Fats Come From?
  • In Which Foods Do We Find Trans Fatty Acids?
  • What Makes Trans Fats So Bad?
To begin let’s consider the question…

Where Do Trans Fats Come From?

The short answer is… they come from us. We make them. Trans-fats are actually our creation. Sobering isn’t it?

Originally it apparently was an honest mistake. It started as an attempt to do something good.

Scientists became aware that diets high in saturated fats are unhealthy. They knew –as we do today – that unsaturated fats are a healthier choice. There are a few problems however. Unsaturated fats…

  • are liquid at room temperature
  • don’t taste like their saturated counterparts (i.e. butter or lard)
  • have a shorter shelf-life
Science came up with a solution. By heating unsaturated oils in the presence of a metal catalyst the unsaturated molecule chain would absorb more hydrogen. The process is called hydrogenation.

(You can read more about hydrogenation by following the link from the main triglycerides page)

If hydrogenation is continued to completion the molecule is said to be 'saturated' because it contains all the hydrogen it can hold. But by discontinuing the hydrogenation process the end product is 'partially hydrogenated'.

It seems like a win-win solution. The product (for example – margarine) looks and functions like saturated products (for example – butter). There is a bonus. The new product is technically unsaturated. It is healthy and tasty. Or so we thought.

Today we know that trans-fats are a major health problem. But we are still making them and consuming them. It is good for business but bad for health.

In Which Foods Do We Find Trans Fatty Acids?

The list is long. If you and I are serious about optimal heart health we must start taking note of this. Let’s begin at home.

Trans fats are created by heating. That means it is possible for us to create some of our own. For example while frying your dinner a small amount of trans fatty acids are created. It probably isn’t a big problem.

However, what if the oil is heated multiple times? Each time a few more trans fats are created. We may not use oil more than once. But how many batches of French fries do you think were cooked in the same oil that was used to make your fries? It is a disturbing question.

This is just the beginning. The complete list is too long to consider here. The easy thing to do is search through your pantry. I did.

How can you know if a product contains trans fats? It’s easy. Look for those seemingly harmless words, 'partially hydrogenated'. You might be surprised where you find them. I found those two little words on the wrapper of a food replacement bar. It was made by a company I otherwise respect. I was a bit disappointed.

The sad thing is partially hydrogenated oils are in a high percentage of the processed foods we eat. Why? Because they…

  • are inexpensive to produce
  • they add flavor
  • they prevent spoilage
  • they extend product shelf-life

Unfortunately, they do not extend our lives.

What Makes Trans Fats So Bad?

Concerns have been raised for some time that...

The all-pervading consumption of trans-fats might have contributed to the coronary heart disease epidemic of the 20th century.

That is a very strong statement. Why this suspicion?

During the hydrogenation process the natural essential fatty acids lose their biological activity and the new trans-fats compete with the essential fatty acids in metabolic activity. In short that means that not only are the trans-fats bad in their converted form but they actually compete with the naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats in our bodies.

Metabolic studies have demonstrated that trans-fats increase LDL (bad) cholesterol while decreasing HDL (good) cholesterol. Saturated fats are also known to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. However saturated fats do not lower HDL.

The ratio between LDL and HDL is a strong predictor of coronary heart disease. Trans-fats literally turn this ratio on is head lowering the good and raising the bad. Further, trans-fats also raise triglyceride levels unlike saturated fats.

Heart Health Note:

The American Heart Association recommends 2 - 4 grams of Omega-3 per day for anyone with high triglycerides. The Omega-3 acids ALA, EPA, and DHA have been shown to greatly reduce triglycerides.

Click here to learn more .

It is estimated from this that...

Trans-fatty acids have twice the heart damaging influence of saturated fats.

Low estimates have blamed the current high consumption of trans-fats for 30,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the United States. Population studies indicate that this number could be many times higher.

Let’s put it in more practical numbers.

Harvard University researchers have reported that people who ate partially hydrogenated oils, which are high in trans fats, had nearly twice the risk of heart attacks compared with those who did not consume hydrogenated oils.

Fortunately people are becoming more aware of the dangers of trans-fatty acids. However, a great number of the foods at normal grocery stores (not many health food stores) are still packed with trans-fats.

From a sales and marketing perspective it makes sense. From a health perspective it makes no sense at all.

The bottom line is this: for optimal heart health, and brain health for that matter, stay away from trans-fatty acids. Read food labels carefully and shop to promote your heart health and the health of your family.

Return from "Why Are Trans Fats So Bad" to "Triglycerides Main Page"

Heart Health Main Page