Why Is Trans Fat So Bad for You?
Not all cholesterol are bad for you, but possibly the worst of the lot is trans fatty acid. Trans fatty acid or trans fat lowers your ‘good’ cholesterol and raises your level of ‘bad’ cholesterol, which in turn increases an individual’s risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Most animal fats -like butter, lard and tallow have a large proportion of saturated fatty acids. Saturated fats pack together easily and are relatively solid at room temperature. Vegetable oils are mostly polyunsaturated fatty acids that do not pack easily and are liquid in room temperature. Although there are some natural trans fat found in meat or dairy product, most trans fat are formed industrially when hydrogen is added into vegetable oil. This is done so that the oil remains solid in room temperature and has a longer shelf-life. Using this oil in the deep fryer also means that the oil does not need to be changed as often as other type of cooking oil, proving more convenient and cost-effective for restaurants like fast-food chains.
Apart from the oil found in deep fryers used in some restaurants, trans fat can also be found in most baked goods that uses shortening instead of butter; snacks like potato, corn or tortilla chips, microwave popcorn; refrigerated dough like frozen pizza, cinnamon rolls, buns and non-dairy coffee creamer.
Researchers noted that prior to 1910s, death by myocardial infarction (heart attack) was almost non-existent. But by 1950s coronary heart disease was the leading cause of death in Americans which coincide with more and more people living till an older age and with the flooding of market with margarine and hydrogenated vegetable oil. Therefore, some researchers and doctors highly recommend returning to our ancestral diet which contains animal fats, meat, beef, eggs and dairy. One researcher studied the Masai tribe in Africa whose diet is extremely rich in saturated fats found that these people live relatively free of heart diseases. These recommendations contradict other well-funded study groups who have for years, advocate increase intake of solid vegetable oil versus animal fat to prevent cardiovascular disease. However,
Globally, food safety and standard are beginning to enforce mandatory inclusion of trans fat content on food labels instead of just labeling trans fat along with cholesterol as practiced traditionally. The notion or idea that vegetable oil is always better than animal fat should be shifted. When shopping for groceries, take the time to check the labeling. Do what you can to protect you health and that of your family.We can only hope that the relevant authorities would have the ethics to always do right by the people they serve.
- Mann, G V, et al, “Atherosclerosis in the Maasai,” Am J Epidemiol, 1972, 95:26-37