Trans Fats: What you Need to Know

August 30, 2005

Trans Fats: What you Need to Know 

 Competency # 13   FATS                              Reference:  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, No. 3, 550-559 September 2004; J Nutr. 2004 Apr;134(4):874-9

 Q:  What are trans fats? 

 A:  Normal vegetable oils, heated slightly with water and a catalyst, change their shape for a long chain with a bend, to a straight long chain.  The straight long chain is a SOLID at room temperature.  The vegetable oil was LIQUID at room temperature.  Think Crisco. •No bacteria can digest trans fats.  Things made with them will last on the shelf for months.  Twinkies don't go bad! •9% of the average American's calories come from trans fats. •Otherwise called "Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" •Banned in many European countries.  There is talk about the whole EU going trans fat free. •$ 33 billion industry in America.  No talk here. 

 Q:  Are they bad for me? 

 A:  YOU BET!  TWICE as bad as saturated animal fats (as a rough measure).  Imagine that solid stuff in your artery walls.  One week off trans fats and your arteries will stretch 10% more than when you were on your trans-fat diet.  Trans-fats make your arteries stiffer! 

Good Articles: 1.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, No. 3, 550-559, September 2004 is a review article on fat intake.  Its conclusion on trans fats is the consensus statement in the new food guidelines.  "There is no benefit from trans fats no matter how low you go.  Recommend eating the fewest amount possible." 

 2.  J Nutr. 2004 Apr;134(4):874-9. from Australia showed that trans fats are an independent risk for CAD, higher than saturated fats.  And when you stop eating them, as they did in Australia when they were banned by the gov’t from margarine, they flush out of your body very quickly. Where are they and how do I measure them Any processed carbohydrate like a cookie or chip of any kind will have a label listing ingredients.  There is a huge revolution going on in the food industry right now, frantically trying to get rid of trans fats because discerning consumers like you are choosing not to buy them.  And next year, labels will have to include the grams of trans fats in food. How to calculate the trans fat content. EASY!  The label on any package must now include Total Fat and Total Saturated Fat.  The difference is the trans fat.  If total is 12 grams, and saturated fat is 3 grams, your trans fat intake would be 9 grams.  Unsaturated fats or vegetable oils are liquid at room temperature.  It's very hard to make a cookie that's solid at room temp with a liquid oil. 

Trans fats are what make MacDonald’s french fries crispy.  It’s what makes chocolate solid at room temperature.  It’s what makes Dream Whip creamy and smooth.  All the yummy things in life Are POISONS.  Trans fats have been banned in many European countries.  That is why Lindt chocolates are so soft: they are on the verge of melting at room temperature.  But they have no trans fats in them.  If you have to have some chocolate, which I do, buy Lindt instead of the others. 

www. What Will Work for Me: Read the label on every package of carbohydrate product you buy.  Buy only trans fat free products.  Your arteries will be 10% more stretchy and have less damage to them within a week of stopping eating the old stuff.   Stop buying fast food with french fries, unless you have had a conversation with your local cardiologist. Next Year: every label will have trans fats listed on it.  Be ahead of the curve by 6 months.

This column was written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-785-5300)