well, aren’t they sneaky… (trans fat)

17Apr14

Recently, talking with this quarter’s nutrition students as well as with my mom, I realized how little is known about a sneaky, sneaky fact. Those labels on some foods that say “Zero Grams Trans Fat!”? They aren’t always telling the truth.

(Now, the government issued a statement toward the end of last year that trans fats are indeed quite unhealthy for us. In fact, they said that no amount is really good for us at all, and most sources suggest that we consume less than 1% of our diet from trans fat per day. Whew. That’s a pretty drastic statement.)

Trans fat has very few natural sources–small amounts are naturally found in dairy and meat–but those don’t seem to have the heart-disease-causing effects of the man-made trans fats that we hear about all the time. The “evildoer” of which I speak is created when oil undergoes a chemical reaction to make it solid–called hydrogenation. This hydrogenation reaction creates man-made trans fats.

These trans fats are found in margarine, microwave popcorn, shelf-stable baked goods, and many processed foods.

Here’s the big secret: labeling regulations allow food manufacturers to say “Zero Grams Trans Fat!” if their product contains up to 0.5 g per serving!

You might be thinking, “evil, evil! out to get me!” And, perhaps there is some component of that. But, since there are some naturally-occurring trans fats in animal products as well, this covers the marginal amount of trans fat that, say, an egg might contribute to a product.

Yet manufacturers do take advantage. How many margarines do you see bearing “Zero Grams…” on their package, to try to get us to buy? (And, the same goes for the nutrition label–they aren’t required to ‘fess up there.)

Look for the following words on the ingredient list: hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, shortening.

It’s not too bad if you honestly limit yourself to one serving, but imagine you’re eating out of a package of cookies and watching a movie that’s really drawing you in… and you’re watching… and you’re eating… and you’re watching……. and before you know it, 5 servings of the cookies are gone. How many trans fat grams have you eaten at that point? Who knows?

So, better to be safe, and try to avoid hydrogenated fats in the first place.

And believe it or not–there is a link to MS, here! Overconsumption of trans fats has been shown to increase chronic inflammation (throughout our entire system), which has been directly linked to cardiovascular illness and type 2 diabetes, but researchers also believe there’s a connection to autoimmune disease. Anti-inflammatory diet (including less trans fat) is definitely better for slowing our MS and reducing our symptoms!

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One Response to “well, aren’t they sneaky… (trans fat)”


  1. 1 eat real food. | In Search of My New Normal

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