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Trans fat and Obesity in America

Trans fat and Obesity in America

The link between trans fat and obesity in America has been a point on contention since the 1990’s. Before that time, America wasn’t aware of what trans fat could do and their link to the growing obesity epidemic. Understanding trans fats, how they interact with the body, and how they are tied to weight gain is the first step in a healthier lifestyle.

What Are They?

Trans fats are found in two different varieties: naturally-occurring and artificial. Trans fats occurring in nature are produced in an animal’s stomach area, and move into the foods produced from that animal, such as cheeses, milk products, or meats. Artificial trans fats are also called trans fatty acids, and they are created within the food industry by adding hydrogen to a liquid vegetable based oil to create a more solid product.

People ingest trans fats in a number of processed foods containing partially hydrogenated oils. These oils are listed on an ingredient list on the food packaging. It is important to understand that the FDA has labeled partially hydrogenated oils as no longer GRAS, or Generally Recognized as Safe.

Why are They Still in Production?

Trans fats, or trans fatty acids, are cheap to make and last for a very long time. The food flavored by trans fats has a more desirable texture and taste. Many businesses will use trans fats for deep frying because the oil can be used multiple times before cleaning or changing. However, there are a number of countries and areas in the United States who have reduced or banned the use of trans fats. Washington State is not one of these areas.

How Does This Affect Me?

Trans fats will raise the bad cholesterol in the body, or the LDL, while good cholesterol, or HDL, is lowered. The risks of stroke and heart disease increase with these fats, and type 2 diabetes risk elevates. Trans fats also cause a redistribution of fat cells in the abdomen, increasing those cells, and therefore increasing weight. In a comparison of two diets, both with the same amount of calories, the diet with more trans fats will always result in more weight gain than one with less trans fats.

Where are Trans Fats Found?

A number of foods contain trans fats, even with voluntary and government forced regulations. Fried foods are highest in trans fats, with baked goods coming in second. Stick margarines or spreads will contain trans fats as well. Luckily, packaged foods must contain a nutrition facts label, so the amount of trans fats will be available for review. In America, products are allowed to label products as 0 grams of trans fats when the product contains less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving, so searching the ingredient list for partially hydrogenated oils is also a good idea. These oils are trans fats.

What About the Natural Trans Fats?

Nature holds some trans fats, such as small amounts in meat and dairy products. There are not enough studies available to determine if natural trans fats affect obesity in the same manner as artificial trans fats.

Lowering the daily intake of trans fats is the best way to help control weight and bad cholesterol. Reading labels and eating more lean meats reduces both artificial and natural trans fats in the diet. Vancouver Home Healthcare Agency can find professionals to help coach and educate clients on proper eating.
At Vancouver Home Health Care Agency, Caring and Compassion is our business.

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