What foods have trans fat?

What foods have trans fats is a very important question now that they, rather than butter, have been strongly associated with coronary heart disease; and other related conditions like diabetes.

There are have been rumblings in the literature that saturated fats are not the villain of the piece for some years. Despite strictly limiting saturated animal fats, coupled with the use of statins, heart disease and stroke have continued to soar.

Three years ago Professor Tim Noakes stated that the theory, long accepted as fact, that animal fats and blood cholesterol are the cause of CHD is one of the biggest mistakes in the history of nutrition.

A meta analysis of the 80 odd the main research studies in the margarine versus butter controversy, published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that there was "no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or cardiovascular disease."

Butter is back has become the buzzword.

A slice of bread with butter.

British Medical Journal

In a new study published in the British Medical Journal.3978 in 2015 numerous studies involving over 300,000 people were pooled looking for associations between saturated and a variety of diseases; and all-cause of death. In addition they looked at trans fats.

Their conclusions were mind blowing.

  • Saturated fat is not associated with all-cause mortality.
  • Nor is it associated with cardiovascular conditions or total coronary heart disease.
  • Nor was saturated fat associated with ischemic stroke or type 2 diabetes.

And now the important part. Trans fats are associated with

  • All-cause mortality.
  • Coronary heart disease.

But trans fats are not associated with diabetes or ischemic stroke.

Trans fats

Even more surprising was that trans fats

  • Found naturally in ruminants (cows basically) are not associated with heart disease.
  • But industrially-made trans fats (as are used in margarine, for example), are associated with heart disease.

What foods have trans fat?

What foods have trans fat research proves that butter is not the villain of the piece.

Trans polyunsaturated fats, to give them their full name, are found:

  • Naturally occurring in meat and dairy products where they are formed by enzymes in bacteria in the gut.
  • After partial hydrogenation by the food industry, using high temperature, plant oils, for example from the sunflower.

The latter, industrially produced trans fats, are associated with coronary heart disease, but the naturally occurring forms in animal products are not.

The research findings of this enormous study are in total contradiction with everything that medicine has been teaching us over the last thirty plus years. The long and the short of it is that the naturally occurring trans fats in meat and dairy products are not associated with a higher rate of heart disease, but those in industrially produced so-called foods are strongly inflammatory in the blood vessels.

In short, the authors state, in this synthesis of observational evidence, "we found no clear association between higher intake of saturated fats and all cause mortality, CHD, ischemic stroke, or type 2 diabetes among apparently healthy adults."

Consumption of trans unsaturated fatty acids, however, was associated with a 34% increase in all cause mortality, a 28% increased risk of coronary heart disease mortality, and a 21% increase in the risk of CHD. Further, these data suggest that industrial trans fats confer a 30% increase in the risk of CHD events and an 18% increase in the risk of CHD mortality.

Putting it bluntly, the trans unsaturated fats that are produced industrially from plant oils for use in peanut butter, marmite, many mayonnaises, snack foods, margarine and packaged foods in general, are strongly associated with coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke.

Alas, one has to search diligently today to find foods produced by the modern manufacturer than is not laced with toxic trans fats. They are added to improve the shelf life of their products, and to make them solid at room temperature.

At a great cost to your health.

As one wag put it, if your great grandmother wouldn't recognise it as food, don't buy it.

Hydrogenated foods

So hydrogenated foods cause inflammation in the tissues of the body; they become angry. Understanding what meals have added trans fat is central to better health.

  • Margarine.
  • Packaged foods.
  • Snack foods like potato chips.
  • Peanut butter, marmite and a host of convenience foods.
  • Bettercreme; it's fully hydrogenated.

Read the labels. Even if it contains less than 1% of added trans fats avoid it; you surely don't want to get even a little bit of coronary heart disease, right?

"Trans fats are manmade fats found not only in margarines but in nearly 40% of all food."

- Prof Spinnie Benade, National Nutritional Research Institute.

Damn lies and statistics

It has long been known that research can be twisted to support any issue; scientists too can be bought. Damn lies and statistics in support of some supplement or drug is not uncommon. We certainly have not heard the last word on the saturated fats and cholesterol story, but for the present we can enjoy butter, at least in moderation. It's knowing which foods have added trans fat, and unerringly avoiding them that leads to better health. 

An typical example can be found at bettercreme sucks; it cannot both be fully hydrogenated and contain no trans fats.

Particularly, if you regularly eat the foods in the photograph at the top of this page. It contains several kinds of lettuce, feta cheese and hummus; tomatoes, spring onions and avocado too, smothered in a homemade olive oil and lime juice dressing. 

Health, of course, is additive. If you're regularly consuming trans fats in say margarine, and smoke, then the effect on the blood vessels exponentially increases.

Just as scary is that several generations of elderly women have been advised to take supplementary calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Now researchers find there is a significantly higher incidence of heart disease as the mineral is deposited in the intima of the coronary arteries, rather than the bones; unless they are very active.

If you are consuming trans fats AND take calcium supplements then the risk becomes much greater; incidentally there's no damage from enjoying foods rich in the mineral.

"Three times, that is how much greater your risk of a heart attack becomes if you eat 3.6g of trans fats instead of 2.5g every day; five small commercial cookies instead of three. A slice of cake 3cm thick instead of 1.5cm thick is equally dangerous."

Lutein and zeaxanthin

In a related issue, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin that are taken up by the macula in the eye to prevent damage from high frequency light, and consequently macular degeneration, are conversely found mainly in the trans form in your naturally grown and harvested food.

However researchers reporting in j.jfca have found that in processed foods, it's mainly the cis isomer; it is doubtful that it has any value. In short, let your food be your medicine.

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