Trans Fat: Good News/Bad News

The Good News: Fast food restaurants are using less trans fats. Yes, that’s good news.

Research from the University of Minnesota’s Nutrition Coordinating Center has shown major chains significantly reducing their use of oils containing trans fat in French fries and other food during the past 10 years. Unfortunately, picky eaters love fast foods, especially French fries.

So what’s the big deal about trans fat? Trans fat is far worse than natural saturated fat ever could be. The production process of injecting liquid fats with hydrogen gas converts them into indigestible trans fatty acids. Trans fat can’t be metabolized in the human body.

In fact, trans fat has a half life of 51 days. That means three months after consuming trans fat, you’re body is still dealing with it.

Only let a kid tell you what he wants for dinner…if he’s paying.

Trans fat molecules are absorbed into your cells, compromising the cell’s metabolism. Trans fat lowers the HDL (good cholesterol) and increases the LDL (bad cholesterol), leading to heart disease. In pregnant women, trans fat, like alcohol, drugs, carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke, and pesticides, pass through the placenta to the baby, affecting the baby’s metabolism in direct proportion to the amount ingested by the mother. In addition, there’s a correlation between trans fat and Type 2 Diabetes.

To make matters worse, trans fat inhibits the absorption of vitamin K (vital for bone growth). Trans fat is a toxin interfering with all membrane function.

In a press release from the University of Minnesota, lead researcher Lisa Harnack said the center maintains a food and nutrient database that goes back to the 1970s. “We’re able to go back in time and compare the present with the past,” she said. “And we did that in looking at fast-food restaurants,” Harnack said. “We found fast-food restaurants are making big improvements in the frying oils, with trans fat going down in most of the restaurants–as well as saturated fat, either going down or staying the same.”

I always say you vote with your dollar. When enough people stop or limit purchasing a product, food producers will change. They’re in business to make a profit and when their profit begins to suffer, they will take notice. That’s capitalism at work.

The Bad News: Americans still receive about 10 percent of their calories from fast-food restaurants. That’s unbelievable. Moms often tell me that fast food in moderation is okay. What’s moderation? Families eat fast foods on average three times a week. Is eating fast food once or twice a week moderate? Of course it isn’t. Eating fast food in moderation is cooking your own hamburgers and fries.

Typical French fries have about 40 percent trans fat. Making fries yourself, will cut down on the number of times you eat them. Peeling, cutting, and frying potatoes can take a while …because of all the work, you’ll not make fries often. That’s moderation, not several times a week at the drive-thru window.

More Bad News: The truth is that when ANY fat is heated for extended periods of time, it becomes a trans fat. (Correction: produce some trans fatty acids. See note below.) So there it is, any fried food eaten out is cooked in the same re-used, re-heated oil. They may start out with a more “healthy” fat, but in the end contains trans fat. The only way to avoid trans fat is to avoid eating fried food out altogether.

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2 thoughts on “Trans Fat: Good News/Bad News

  1. Kim Wallace says:

    Please share the sources of information supporting the statement that “any fat .. heated for extended periods of time …becomes a trans fat.”

    It is unclear to me how this occurs.

    I appreciate the sentiment that people should eat less fast food, however, I am dubious about this transformation without some published studies backing up the concept.


    You are right. I should have been more accurate in my statement. Frying and deep-frying produce SOME trans-fatty acids. Actually, other oxidation products are far more toxic than trans-fatty acids. Udo Erasmus, internationally recognized authority on fats and human health, says there is really no safe frying in his book, “Fats that Heal Fats that Kill.” Erasmus states, “Changes due to high temperature, oxygen, and light present in frying and deep-frying take place rapidly in unsaturated fatty acids and even more rapidly in essential fatty acids. …Frying turns Essential Fatty Acids into toxic products which damage health.” He then explains, “Scores of unnatural breakdown, dimer, and polymer products with unknown effects on health are produced by frying and deep-frying.”
    I hope that clarifies my comments, Joann Bruso

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