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 trans fats and a variety of diseases, and all cause of death.

Their conclusions are mind blowing.

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

And now the important part. Trans fats were 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) were 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 products 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 foods have trans fat is central to better health.

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

Read the labels. Even if it contains less than 1% of trans fats avoid it; you surely don't want to get even a little 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's long been known that research can be twisted to support any issue; statisticians too can be bought. Damn lies and statistics in support of some supplement or drug is not uncommon. We certainly haven't 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 what foods have 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, hummus, tomatoes, spring onions, avocado and baby spinach leaves, smothered in an olive oil and lime juice dressing; homemade, of course. 

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.

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

"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, and a slice of cake 3cm thick instead of 1.5cm thick."

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's doubtful that it has any value. In short, let your food be your medicine.

Useful links

› What foods have trans fats?

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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Interesting questions from visitors

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Greetings, Dr B.

You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

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Knowing that up to 70 percent of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there is a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong. Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

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