Health Problems

That Hidden Death Trap: Trans Fats

Trans fat lurks in thousands of foods, but manufacturers are not required by law to include on their list of ingredients if it contains trans fat. In fact, the FDA will not require this ingredient to be listed until 2006. Most readers have heard that there different kinds of fats: monounsaturated fat (in olives; olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil; cashews, almonds, peanuts, and most other nuts; avocados), polyunsaturated fat (in corn, soybean, safflower, and cottonseed oils; fish), saturated fat (mainly animal fats: meat, seafood, whole-milk dairy products such as cheese, milk, and ice cream, poultry skin, and egg yolks; some plant foods: coconut and coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil), and the bad one: trans fat. If you see the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredients, then the product contains trans fat. This ingredient helps to increase the shelf life of food, but it has disastrous effects on our bodies.

The first two are “good” fats (although that does not mean you can eat all you want of them). Saturated fat can be a “bad” fat, but luckily, when you eat too much of it your body converts it to monounsaturated fat (a good fat). Trans fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are a serious problem. Trans fats cause a lowering of your HDL (good) cholesterol and an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol. This problem is so pervasive that a non-profit organization, “Ban Trans Fat,” sued Kraft/Nabisco because not only do Oreos contain trans fat, the company marketed its Oreo cookies specifically to young children and failed to list trans fat as an ingredient. The same non-profit group also sued McDonald’s after the restaurant chain promised to reduce the amount of trans fat in its food, but McDonald’s quietly withdrew that promise and did nothing.7

Trans fats lurk in most margarines; vegetable shortening; partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, deep-fried chips, many fast foods and most commercial baked goods. This list can include waffles, “chicken tenders,” fish sticks, cheese and cracker sandwiches, Raman noodles, Chex party mix, pizza, biscuits, tater tots, margarine, non-dairy creamers, popcorn and apple pie. The list is a long, scary one. Unfortunately, trans fat is not listed as an ingredient on most food labels, so when you go out to dinner or to a donut place, you must ask them for the ingredients. Ban Trans Fat even has a t-shirt available for those who feel strongly about being duped by manufacturers that reads: "DON'T PARTIALLY HYDROGENATE ME"™