Most trans fat is formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. The partially hydrogenated oil is less likely to spoil so foods made with it have a longer shelf life. In addition, some meat and dairy products also contain small amounts of naturally occurring trans fat.
The manufactured form of trans fat is found in a variety of food products, including baked goods, snacks, fried food, refrigerator dough, and non-dairy creamer and margarine. Trans fat, particularly the manufactured variety, appears to have no known health benefit. But, conversely, they are quite detrimental to our health. Experts recommend keeping intake of this fat as low as possible.
The following are the harmful effects of trans fat:
· They significantly increase the risk of heart disease and stroke;
· They cause insulin resistance and lead to type II diabetes, but the results from human studies are mixed;
· They also have an unhealthy effect on our cholesterol levels – increasing LDL and decreasing HDL cholesterol;
· They increase inflammation, especially in people who are overweight or obese;
· They can damage the inner lining of our blood vessels, causing a condition known as endothelial dysfunction;
· And they increase the risk of cancer but their effect on cancer risk is less clear.
How to reduce their intake:
Eat lean meat – We can largely reduce the intake of trans fats by decreasing the intake of fatty meats like beef and pork and replacing them with lean meats like poultry, seafood, and lean cuts of beef. An added benefit of seafood is that it is high in healthy fats which can lower the risk of heart disease.
Take low fat dairy – We can do this by changing over to low fat or fat free milk. If we do this gradually, the taste difference will be less noticeable.
Eliminate junk food – Most junk food is loaded with trans fat. If you have a habit of eating these foods on a regular basis, you need to drastically reduce their intake.