This article was previously published on April 15, 2020 and has been updated with new information.
The history of trans fats dates back to 1903 when Wilhelm Normann applied for and obtained a patent after discovering how to make liquid oil thicker and firmer by hydrogenation.1 These fats had a longer shelf life and were cheaper to produce.
In 1911, Procter & Gamble introduced Crisco, a vegetable advertised as an “economical alternative to animal fats and butter.” During World War II, when the government standardized butter, this led to an increase in the popularity of margarine, a product of trans fatty acids.
The process of partial hydrogenation that produces trans fats involves the addition of one molecule of hydrogen on the opposite side of the carbon bond in the fat molecule. This one small change is responsible for the difference in the way you metabolize fat and thus increase the danger to your health.2
In the natural state, unsaturated fatty acids are usually in the “cis” configuration, which means that hydrogen molecules are on the same side and not on opposite sides.
Conditions associated with trans fatty acids
There is evidence that this small difference links trans fats to inflammation in the body, leading to a greater potential for insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease.3 According to Harvard Health Publishing, “For every 2% of daily calories consumed from trans fats, the risk of heart disease increases by 23%.”
In addition to these health conditions, researchers are investigating the relationship between trans fat and preeclampsia,4 breast cancer,5 nervous system disorders6 and memory impairment in offspring when animals are fed trans fats during gestation or lactation.7
Trans fats can be found in processed foods with a long shelf life. To know if they are present, you need to read the ingredients, not just the top of the nutrition label.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, manufacturers are allowed to advertise or label a product with “zero trans fat” if it weighs less than 0.5 g per meal. The FDA’s rules for compliance on nutritional labels are:8
“The trans fat content must be expressed in grams per meal to the nearest increase of 0,5 grams below 5 grams and to the nearest gram above 5 grams. If the portion contains less than 0,5 grams, the content, when declared, must be expressed as ‘0 g. “
There are some natural trans fats found in meat products that you may have heard are as bad for you as trans fats.9,10 However, although researchers often do not identify it unless they are testing the differences between conventional and grazed meat, it is important to recognize that the meat is probably from livestock fed cereals, which changes nutrients.
Remember, not all processed foods will contain partially hydrogenated trans fats to extend shelf life. Of course, this is not the only reason to avoid processed foods! Read labels, including those for:11,
Chilled and frozen dough products
Bakery products from the store such as cakes, cookies and pies
Fried foods, including donuts
Peanut butter with more than peanuts
Coffee cream without milk
Popcorn from the microwave
Paste the margarine
Trans fatty acids trigger cell death
Researchers from Tohoku University in Japan recently published a study12 in which they tested the effect of fatty acids on programmed cell death or apoptosis.
During apoptosis, the body gets rid of unhealthy cells, which is one of the mechanisms preventing conditions like cancer. If DNA damage spreads to too many cells and triggers too much apoptosis, it can lead to some of the same chronic diseases that researchers know are associated with trans fat consumption.
Test the theory that fat affects the mitochondrial signaling pathway,13 they devised a study in which they induced DNA damage using a conventional chemotherapeutic drug. They found that two trans fatty acids – elaid and linoelaid acid – increase apoptosis. Other unsaturated fats did not have the same effect.
Two trans fats increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced by cells, increasing the rate of apoptosis. Atsushi Matsuzawa from the University Laboratory of Health Chemistry commented on the results:14
“Accumulated evidence links trans-fatty acid consumption to a variety of diseases, including some lifestyle diseases, atherosclerosis and dementia. But the underlying causes remain largely unknown.
Our research has revealed a new toxic function and mechanism of action of trans-fatty acids, which may explain pathological mechanisms, including atherosclerosis. This significant discovery will provide a molecular basis for understanding how trans fatty acids cause disease. “
Trans fats associated with cognitive decline
As I have already written, the food you eat and other lifestyle factors affect your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of cognitive decline. Dietary choices affect the risk of depression, high blood pressure, and middle-aged obesity. Foods that promote neurological degeneration include sugar, grains and trans fats.15
Recently, scientists have discovered a strong link between a diet high in trans fats and an increased incidence of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. This risk is not small. Dr. Neelum T. Aggarwal, who was not involved in the study, commented for CNN:16
This study shows that there are negative ‘brain / cognitive’ outcomes, with known cardiovascular outcomes, associated with a diet high in trans fats. This message must be delivered in countries where the ban on trans fats has not been adopted or it’s hard to implement. “
CNN reported that people in the highest quartile of elaidic acid levels were up to 74% more likely to develop dementia. This is one of the same trans fats that has been found to increase cellular apoptosis.
Dr. Richard Isaacson, a neurologist and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, who was not involved in the study, commented on the findings showing a link between trans fats and Alzheimer’s disease:17
“The study used trans fat levels in the blood instead of the traditionally used dietary questionnaires, which increases the scientific validity of the results. This study is important because it is based on previous evidence that dietary fat intake may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.”
Beliefs about trans fats associated with activist promotions
Until 2006. FDA18 required manufacturers to declare the presence of trans fats on the nutrition label of all processed foods. In 2015, they found that partially hydrogenated oils were not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).
The deadline for compliance was June 18, 2018 for most foods, but an extension until January 1, 2020 was allowed due to “orderly market transition”. Manufacturers of products that have submitted a petition for the use of trans fats before June 2019 have been given another extended compliance date from 1 January 2021. This means that, depending on their stated shelf life, trans fat foods could still be on store shelves 2022.
The self-proclaimed consumer oversight group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), was the starting force behind a very successful campaign to eliminate healthy saturated fats and introduce trans fats into your diet. This is mainly why fast food restaurants have switched to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
By 1988, CSPI had published an article praising trans fats, speaking19 “there is little good evidence that trans fats cause more harm than other fats” and “much of the anxiety about trans fats stems from their reputation as ‘unnatural’.”
Many still mistakenly believe that margarine is a healthier choice than grass-fed butter. The CSPI campaign to replace saturated animal and tropical oils with trans fats has played an important role in promoting this error.
The group’s successful impact on the food industry is discussed in David Schleifer’s article, “The Perfect Solution: How Trans Fats Became a Healthy Substitute for Saturated Fats,” in which he notes:20
“Scientists routinely claim that corporations control food production in the United States, with negative consequences for health, environmental quality and working conditions. However, the transition from saturated to trans fats shows how activists can be part of encouraging corporations to change …
But the case of trans fats shows that the effectiveness of activists in changing industrial technologies was not just a question of how well organized they are, how many resources they have, or how well they communicate; in part, activists have succeeded in framing saturated fat replacement as a rational course of action based on scientific fact – namely, the link between saturated fat and heart disease. “
The same group that leads in favor of GMOs
Just as CSPI has sided with the industry to promote a low-fat and trans-fat diet in your food, they are also taking a stand in favor of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Most polls show that most Americans want their food to be labeled if it contains GMO ingredients. However, Greg Jaffe, director of CSPI’s biotechnology project, is not convinced.
He testified at a hearing on Pompey’s HR 1599 Act, colloquially known as the Denial of the Right of Americans to Know Act (DARK). The law would deprive individual states of the right to enforce food labeling laws and prevent regulations that restrict or prohibit the growth of GMO crops.
During his testimony21 he told the board that 70% of respondents answered in the affirmative, when given the opportunity to have pesticides, antibiotics and GMOs on their labels. He then quoted a Rutgers poll that asked an open-ended question, what new information would you like on your food labels? According to Jaffe, only 7% state GMOs.
“I don’t think we have a good idea of what consumer demands really are … A Rutgers poll … two-thirds of consumers haven’t even talked about it in three years and don’t know about it. Providing information without knowing what the information means can to be deceptive in itself. “
In other words, his justification for not labeling food products as GMOs is that not all consumers understand what the label means. This is an unforgivable position for a group that claims to work in the name of consumer protection. In the video below, you will hear his statements in which he claims that there are no studies that GMOs have caused any negative health problems.
This is the same position they have taken in terms of trans fats and artificial sweeteners. In other words, the organization seems to be at least consistent in its defense of producers and industry as opposed to consumer health.
Develop healthy eating habits
Exercise, eating, moving and sleeping are often based on habits you have developed. Once you have established a habit, it is easier to keep it than to break it. The same goes for creating healthy eating habits. Start with whole, organically grown food that you cook and prepare at home, including meat and dairy products grown on pastures.
After you have gradually replaced processed foods with whole foods, consider including a ketogenic diet and occasional fasting to support the health and biogenesis of your mitochondria.