The Truth About Trannies

Trans-fat topics have been all the rage these days. They have been required on nutrition labels since 2006 and, since, many states have banned them from their schools and restaurants. So what are these fats and what makes a trans-fat worse than any other fat? Well here’s a picture to help explain.
You can see that there are two carbon carbon double bonds but rather than a cis formation (where the hydrogens are on the same side) these hydrogens fall on opposite sides of the chain. Chemists love this formation because its very stable. Which is why it’s no wonder that food scientist soon adapted the formation for fats. By taking on this formation (generally through partial hydrogenation), food scientists can lengthen the shelf life of their product because the fat being used is more stable, therefore less likely to quickly spoil. The problem is that the body does not easily digest this formation because the lipase enzymes can’t quite attack it the way they can other formations. Naturally- they give up trying which makes that trans business more likely to just chill in an artery for eternity. Okay- maybe not that long… but it’s no good either way. Since ’06, though, trans awareness is on the up and up and yet still, buyer beware. A product can advertise ‘trans-fat free” and still contain trace amounts (less than 0.5g per serving) of trans fat. And if a manufacturer is super sneaky they can adjust their serving size measurements to meet this, and advertise some shady claims.
Additionally, there are some trace amounts that naturally occur in foods such as red meat and other animal products (which I love- I am in no way discouraging red meat). They can also occur naturally through the heating of some oils such as canola (typically above 350 degrees for more than 10 minutes). Your body, however, can handle trace amounts. Trouble ensues if trace amounts are found in a lot of your food choices….you do the math.
So what to look out for: packaged crackers and cookies as well as cakes and biscuts that say ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oils’. The trans business can also sneak into many fast foods, bakery products and most candy bars, even my favorite peanut
M&Ms (insert whimper).
To avoid taking on more than your little enzymes and arteries can handle, just take 5 seconds to peep ingredients. If you see any of the additions listed above, put it down and hit the produce section.


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