In recent years, the detrimental effects of trans fats on human health have come to light. Trans fats are artificially created fats that result from the process of hydrogenation, which converts liquid vegetable oils into solid fats. These fats have been commonly used in processed foods due to their ability to prolong shelf life and enhance taste and texture. However, scientific research has revealed several compelling reasons why we should avoid trans fats to safeguard our health.
In this blog, we will explore five crucial reasons backed by scientific studies and provide references and citations for each point.
Numerous studies have linked the consumption of trans fats to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart attacks and strokes. The meta-analysis conducted by Mozaffarian et al. (2010) demonstrated that each 2% increase in energy intake from trans fats was associated with a 23% higher risk of coronary heart disease. This risk arises primarily due to trans fats’ ability to increase LDL cholesterol (commonly known as “bad” cholesterol) levels and decrease HDL cholesterol (known as “good” cholesterol) levels in the blood, promoting atherosclerosis and arterial plaque formation (Mozaffarian et al., 2006).
Emerging evidence suggests that trans fats may have adverse effects on brain health and cognitive function. A study by Okereke et al. (2012) found that higher trans fat consumption was associated with worse cognitive performance and faster cognitive decline among women aged 65 years or older. Additionally, a review of animal studies by Cutuli et al. (2019) revealed that diets rich in trans fats negatively affected synaptic plasticity and neuroinflammation, contributing to cognitive impairments.
Consumption of trans fats has been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A large prospective study conducted by Salmerón et al. (2001) found that higher trans fat intake was associated with a higher risk of diabetes among women. The mechanism behind this association involves trans fats’ ability to impair insulin sensitivity, promote inflammation, and induce body fat deposition, contributing to insulin resistance and diabetes development.
Trans fat consumption during pregnancy has been associated with adverse effects on fetal development. A prospective cohort study by Baylin et al. (2002) found that higher maternal trans fat intake was linked to a higher risk of low birth weight in newborns. Moreover, a study by Afeiche et al. (2014) reported that trans fat consumption during pregnancy was associated with a higher risk of gestational diabetes.
Trans fats have been linked to chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. A study by Pattison et al. (2004) revealed that higher consumption of trans fats was associated with an increased risk of developing inflammatory polyarthritis. The pro-inflammatory properties of trans fats are believed to contribute to the exacerbation of inflammatory responses in the body.
To address the serious health concerns associated with trans fats, many countries and regions have implemented measures to limit or ban their use in food products. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for the elimination of industrially produced trans fats from the global food supply. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps to remove partially hydrogenated oils (the primary source of trans fats) from food products.
Health organisations and experts recommend avoiding trans fats altogether and opting for healthier fats like unsaturated fats (found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish) to promote heart health and overall well-being.
To promote better health and reduce the consumption of trans fats, it’s crucial to be aware of the foods that often contain high levels of these harmful fats. Here are some common trans fat-rich foods to avoid:
- Fried Foods: Deep-fried items like french fries, fried chicken, and doughnuts are typically cooked in partially hydrogenated oils, making them high in trans fats.
- Commercial Baked Goods: Many commercially-produced baked goods such as cookies, cakes, pastries, and muffins often contain trans fats due to the use of hydrogenated oils or shortening.
- Processed Snacks: Snack foods like potato chips, microwave popcorn, and certain crackers frequently contain trans fats to enhance taste and texture.
- Margarine and Vegetable Shortening: Solid margarine and vegetable shortening used for cooking and baking often contain high levels of trans fats.
- Non-Dairy Creamers: Some non-dairy creamers used in coffee or tea can be high in trans fats, especially those in liquid or powdered form.
- Refrigerated Dough Products: Pre-made dough products, such as refrigerated biscuits and cinnamon rolls, may contain trans fats.
- Fast Food and Takeout: Many fast food items, including burgers, fried chicken, and various fried sides, are cooked in oils that contain trans fats.
Fortunately, there are plenty of healthier alternatives to replace foods high in trans fats. By making these substitutions, you can reduce your trans fat intake and improve your overall dietary profile:
- Cooking Oils: Opt for healthier cooking oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, or coconut oil, which are low in trans fats and high in heart-healthy monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.
- Homemade Baked Goods: When baking at home, use healthier fats like unsalted butter, coconut oil, or olive oil instead of margarine or vegetable shortening.
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Emphasise whole, unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, which are naturally trans fat-free and packed with essential nutrients.
- Nuts and Seeds: Snack on nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, which provide healthy fats and additional nutritional benefits.
- Lean Proteins: Choose lean sources of protein such as fish, chicken, turkey, legumes, and tofu, as they are lower in trans fats compared to processed meats.
- Whole Grains: Opt for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat products over processed and refined grains, which may contain added trans fats.
- Read Labels: When buying packaged foods, read the nutrition labels carefully. Look for products with zero grams of trans fat per serving.
By being mindful of your food choices and selecting healthier alternatives, you can reduce your intake of trans fats and support better overall health and well-being. Remember, a balanced diet consisting of whole, nutrient-rich foods is essential for promoting optimal health and preventing chronic diseases.
Based on a wealth of scientific evidence, it is clear that avoiding trans fats is essential for promoting better health and preventing various chronic diseases. Trans fats have been strongly associated with adverse effects on cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and type 2 diabetes risk. Additionally, their consumption during pregnancy can negatively impact fetal development, and they have been linked to chronic inflammatory conditions. To safeguard our health, it is prudent to opt for healthier fat alternatives, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in sources like olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish. By making informed dietary choices, we can protect ourselves and our loved ones from the harmful effects of trans fats.