That pie could be killing you! A look into what Trans fats really are!

With the upcoming FDA intervention regarding trans fats I think it may be important to take a moment to reflect on how trans fats affect the body.

What are they?

Trans fats are fatty acids with a “kink” in them, caused by a double bond in the carbon chains. Elaidic acid, a common trans fatty acid, is found in such items as margarine and vegetable shortening. These acids are chemically produced in a laboratory-like environment by passing an electrical current through vegetable oils in the presence of elemental palladium. The outcome is a solid oil that makes pie crusts crispy and makes for a good mouth-feel.

Why are they so bad?

In the early 1980’s Welsh researchers and studies by Harvard University theorized that trans fats may be linked to cardiac diseases. It seems that this outcome is caused by increases in low-density lipoproteins, commonly referred to as LDL cholesterol, which are detrimental to arterial walls; a decrease in HDL (the good cholesterol that scours arteries of LDL) is also correlated strongly with intakes of trans fats. Studies with animals have also shown that consuming trans fats increases the rate at which obesity and insulin resistance occur.

How can we avoid them?

Thanks to the Harvard School of Public Health labels must now include the amount of trans fats in products. It is however hard to know what store-bought bakery items contain. Many regions, such as New York City, have outlawed the use of trans fats in restaurants and schools; New Yorkers have some peace-of-mind. Until the FDA is able to ban their use nationwide, however, it may be smart to just ask: most baked goods are full of the bad stuff.

Where can I find more information?

Information for this article was found via the Harvard School of Public Health newsletter which can be found here.

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