Trans Fat (hydrogenated fat) is manufactured by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils in a process called hydrogenation, which gives it a solid consistency. It is used to fry fast foods including chicken, in addition to being present in cookies, pizza, margarine and hidden in many other foods.
Trans Fat is widely used in junk foods (and even some so called 'health food') thanks to a number of qualities that make it very appealing to food manufacturers. It's cheap to produce, extends the shelf life of food and helps create a very appealing texture in the mouth.
Weight GainResearch is now starting to show that Trans Fat is more associated with weight gain than other fats. Trans fat is not metabolized the same way that good fats are. It causes an inflammation response to the body, which increases cortisol and blood glucose levels, and also inhibits insulin function.
"Trans Fat is worse than anticipated," according to Wake Forest researcher Lawrence L. Rudel, PhD. "Diets rich in Trans Fat cause a redistribution of fat tissue into the abdomen and lead to a higher body weight, even when the total dietary calories are controlled."
So the effect of junk food on your weight is greatly increased - not only is it high calorie, but the Trans Fat that it contains actually accelerates your weight gain even further!
Health concernsThe reputation of this 'Frankenstein fat' has gone from bad to worse. Places like Switzerland, Denmark and New York have already started regulating Trans Fat content, due to concern for their citizens' health.
Trans Fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. This type of artery-clogging fat may also be responsible for increases in heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, cancer and low birth rates. This is not even the entire list of health issues many recent studies are uncovering.
How can you avoid Trans Fat?Depending on where you live, it can actually be very easy to avoid Trans Fat. If you live in New York for example, regulations ensure that restaurant food will have minimal levels. However, even a trip to the supermarket can expose you to high levels of this nasty substance.
When you pick up food, check the list of ingredients for Trans Fats. They also goes by the names of 'hydrogenated oil', 'vegetable shortening' or 'partially hydrogenated oil'. Here is a small list of some of the main culprits:
- French fries
- Biscuits, cookies
- Cakes, pastries, doughnuts
- Breakfast cereals
- Cereal bars
- Fried chicken, and other fast food
- Microwave popcorn
- Frozen foods
- Vegetable shortening and margarine