Are you suspicious when you walk into your local supermarket? If you’re not already, you should be – in order to take care of your health and fitness. Did you know that there are these potentially dangerous substances lurking in some of the products? These substances are called trans fats.
Trans-fats may cause an increase in abdominal fat, which if you’re working on your fitness and physique is an obvious no-no. However the situation is even more serious as this in turn this could lead to diabetes. Not only that but consuming trans-fats can higher your chances of having heart disease, stroke, asthma, eczema and other diseases. In fact trans-fats could even lead to memory loss …read on to find out the truth about trans fats.
What is the truth about tran fats?
Trans-fats are a type of fat formed through hydrogenation, or the hardening of oils into a more solid form. This type of fat, which is used in numerous processed foods, has a different nutritional profile than the fats you find naturally in whole foods. Consuming a diet with too many trans-fats can have varied negative effects on your health, from increased risk of heart disease to impaired memory function.
Given the negative effects of trans-fats, health-conscious consumers may wonder why the substances were introduced into foodstuffs, to begin with. Typically, trans-fats are added to packaged biscuits or cakes, or other processed foods that are intended to have a long shelf life. Trans-fats can be used in these products without shortening their shelf life, as you would find with other types of fats, such as butter or vegetable-based oils. Therefore, producers use trans-fats for ease and to help their bottom line, not for the consumer’s health.
Most health experts now advise against consuming trans-fats or, at least, minimising your servings. Since so many processed foods have trans-fats lurking among the ingredients, one approach to a better diet is simply to restrict yourself to whole foods. That way you can easily control your intake of trans-fats and other unwelcome additives. You may also carefully read labels, checking which types of fats are used in each item you buy. Avoid any products that say “partially hydrogenated” on the label; this is simply another term for “trans-fat”.
Why you should avoid trans fats
By avoiding trans-fats, you can hope to lower your risk of many of the biggest forms of preventable illness. For example, a diet high in trans-fat has been linked to an increase in “bad cholesterol”, or LDL, which can increase your likelihood of heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke. In addition to the heightened LDL levels, trans-fats may cause lower rates of HDL, or “good cholesterol”. As a result of this shift in the balance between LDL and HDL, the levels of lipoproteins and triglycerides in the blood also increase. An increase in these compounds can stiffen, inflame and clog arteries.
Aside from the negative effects of trans-fats on the circulatory system, researchers have identified a connection between diets high in fast food and the incidence of asthma and eczema, particularly among children. While research is still inconclusive, some experts point to a possible link between the trans-fats found in fast food and the asthma and eczema conditions.
Aside from the increased risks of heart disease, asthma and eczema, trans-fats may cause an increase in abdominal fat, also known as the so-called “brown fat”, which has been linked to a greater risk of diabetes.
On the tails of the no-fat or low-fat craze of the late 20th century, increasingly nutritionists and health experts are encouraging the public to think about which fats they eat. While saturated fats were long thought to be problematic, more recent evidence points the finger at the artificial process through which trans-fats are created. This engineering feat, in which hydrogen is introduced to create a solid form of oil, may be the real culprit for many recent spikes in various forms of disease.
In addition to heart disease, eczema and asthma, diets high in trans-fats may be linked to higher rates of memory problems. According to an experiment that involved 1,000 adult males, subjects who ate more trans-fats performed worse on memory tests. The experiment arrived at these findings, even taking into account mind-influencing factors such as age, depression or education. On average, among men under 45, each extra gram of trans-fat in the daily intake resulted in subjects remembering .76 fewer words. The subjects who had consumed the highest levels of trans-fats remembered 11 fewer words than the control group did.
While the study shows only a correlation and not, necessarily, a cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers found the results sufficiently thought-provoking to make further investigation of interest. Researchers also believe that trans-fats may be linked to oxidative stress, a process of gradual damage to cells in various tissues of the body. In other words, trans-fats may be “pro-oxidants”, the opposite of anti-oxidents. Since anti-oxidants often improve memory, researchers hypothesize that trans-fats’ pro-oxidant effects may be at the root of the memory impairment from the study.
Say goodbye to trans fats
While the myths surrounding saturated fats or fats, in general, abide, some signs point to progress. Increasingly, consumers are recognising the buzzword “trans-fats”. On average, we are eating fewer trans-fats than we did 30 years ago. According to a recent study, we cut consumption of trans-fats by about 35 percent, from 1980 to 2009. Supermarkets and food brands, conscious of the public’s swaying attitudes, are increasingly removing trans-fats from their product recipes. While it can reduce shelf life for the product, it’s a move that can improve quality of life for the consumer.
This is some good news. However trans-fats still lurk, so if you want to avoid that abdominal fat, and a whole host of other issues, it’s time to say goodbye to trans-fats.
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