Diet and Nutrition

What is Trans Fat?

What is Trans Fat?

Key Takeaways

  • Trans fat can be found in several unhealthy foods, including french fries, cake mix, chicken nuggets, and much more.
  • Trans fat can raise LDL levels in the body, and can lead to severe health conditions.

Trans fats are made by hydrogenation of oil, which is a process that increases the shelf life of oil. Foods made with trans fats do not spoil quickly. It also enhances the texture and flavor of food. Thus, many foods, including frozen pizza, pastries, crackers, french fries, doughnuts, and cookies are made with this fat. Experts believe that hydrogenation of oil makes it difficult to digest. Although trans fats improve the flavor of certain foods, it has a number of health risks associated with it.

Trans fats increase the levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol, which, in turn, raises the risk for heart disease. Trans fats decrease the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, which adds to the risk. According to the American Heart Association, daily intake of trans fats should be less than 1% of the total calories consumed. Thus, for a person to have an average of 1,500 calories a day, trans fat consumption should be less than 1.5 g a day.

There are several health risks caused by the consumption of trans fat. High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to the accumulation of fat on the walls of arteries, resulting in atherosclerosis. This accumulation restricts the flow of blood through the blood vessels, and this may cause coronary heart disease. It also increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Trans fats may also increase levels of triglycerides, which raises the risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart diseases. Trans fats are also known to increase inflammation.

As per the recommendation of FDA, many manufacturers are now making products with zero trans fats. However, if certain ingredients include 'partially hydrogenated oil' and are named on the label, it is just another term for trans fat. Opt for brands that do not have trans fat, and have very low saturated fat content.

Foods that contain trans fat include:

  • Pre-mixed cake mixes, pan cake mixes, and chocolate drink mixes.
  • Frozen foods.
  • Vegetable shortening.
  • Cookies, crackers, muffins, hamburger buns, and pie crusts.
  • Doughnuts, french fries, and chicken nuggets.

Even when the label says ‘zero trans fat', the product may contain trace amounts of trans fat, as the FDA allows this label for products containing up to 0.5 g of trans fat. It is easy to check the amounts of trans fat on products available in grocery stores. Yet, the risk continues if you eat out a lot, as most restaurants use trans fat to fry foods.