Trans fats are in dozens of products that most people probably have considered to be healthy for them — however, these so-called healthy foods are actually artery-clogging products that are bad for your health. Read on, to learn more about them, and why foods that contain trans fat are bad for your health.
Some of the products include Fig Newtons, certain cereals, and granola bars. Also on the list are the delicious Special K Blueberry Cereal bars, Omega 3 bars, boxed cookies, margarine, and the cereal, Quaker Oats Fiber. These products list that they have zero trans fat in them. That’s not because they actually do contain zero trans fat; it’s because they are allowed to say that they do, because they contain less than .5 grams of them.
One loophole in listing ingredients on food products is when they list that they contain “partially hydrogenated oil.” Trans fat is used to make this type of oil. Partially hydrogenated oils are solid at room temperature.
Nutritionist Dr. Joe Schwartz calls this labeling practice “misleading” and recommends that, to avoid consuming food products which contain trans fat, “stay away from processed food.”
Truth in labeling is the real “issue” with this misleading labeling practice, according to nutritionist Dr. Alan Kadish. One problem with saying that a food product contains zero trans fat is, as Kadish states, “we don’t know” about the potential dangers that even “small amounts” of trans fat might pose.
The good news for health-conscious people is that the FDA might ban trans fats from food products in the near future, though the somewhat bad news is that they likely won’t ban products which contain less than .5 grams of trans fat.
Trader Joe’s in New York City is a fairly health-conscious chain, but some of the frozen food which they sell contains trans fat. These food products include their Cajun-Style Blackened Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, Mexican Quiche, and Tomato and Pesto Flatbread. Each serving of these products contain between .5-1 gram of trans fat.
If a food contains trans fat that is “naturally occurring,” as a spokesperson for Trader Joe’s says about five of their frozen food products, they would be exempt from the FDA ban.
Under the FDA proposal, some food products would be gradually phased out. Examples of these products are Bisquick pancake mix, Pillsbury ready-bake cookies, and microwave popcorn.
Food products which contain, generally speaking, high levels of trans fat include frozen pizzas, microwave popcorn, and cake frosting.
Other food products which contain trans fat might not be “phased out,” but will, instead, find healthier substitutes to use in their products.
Many food products have already had the trans fats in them removed, but the FDA’s proposal will potentially be a health benefit, especially to people who are at risk for developing heart disease.
According to estimates made by the FDA, the elimination of trans fats from food products might prevent at least some of the 7000 deaths each year caused by heart disease, as well as some of the 20,000 heart attacks people experience every year in America.
Why do some food products contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils?
Some food products contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils because they were thought to be a healthier substitute for butter, which contains saturated fats.
However, trans fats have proven to be possibly as dangerous for the health of consumers. Besides the food products already mentioned, trans fats are used in non-dairy creamers and some crackers, to give them a buttery sort of flavor.
Besides being a substitute for butter, another reason they began being used on a wide-scale basis is that they act as a preservative, making food products “shelf stable” for months without going bad. This type of oil was also very popular with fast food restaurants, who used the oil in deep fryers over and over again before replacing it.
What do trans fats do in regards to high cholesterol levels?
Trans fats pose a health risk, according to nutritionists, because they both elevate a person’s LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels, and lower the HDL, or “good,” levels.
Besides this, according to registered dietitian Penn State Professor of Nutrition Penny Kris-Etherton, partially hydrogenated oils cause “inflammation,” which is “a root cause of heart disease” as well as “other chronic diseases.”
The FDA proposal to ban foods which contain trans fats might very well lead to a decrease in premature deaths due to heart disease and heart attacks, and possibly lower the risk of people getting other chronic diseases. Until then, however, it would be perhaps wise to steer away from eating processed foods, even ones which many consumers have previously believed to be healthy for them to consume.
Written by: Douglas Cobb