Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dangerous Trans Fats

Trans fats are fats that remain hard at room temperature. These fats are formed when vegetable oils are heated at high temperatures in the presence of hydrogen. That is why they are called hydrogenated fats.

Trans fats are considered the most dangerous fats because they can thicken the blood, combine with calcium and cholesterol to form a thick, waxy substance that sticks to the walls of the blood vessels and make it hard for blood to flow through the arteries.

When blood flow is impeded, it means that oxygen-rich blood cannot get to the heart, lungs and blood vessels the way it should. This could lead to all kinds of problems involving those vital organs.

It means that the heart has to work harder, breathing could become difficult, and the brain could become foggy. Your blood pressure could also be affected as plaque builds up in the arteries, causing stiffening and requiring more pressure for the blood to flow through.

If the problem is serious enough, you could have a heart attack or a stroke. In many cases, a stroke happens when small pieces of plaque break away from the walls of the blood vessels and enters the circulation. At some point, a clot may form. This clot can then clog the artery and cut off the lifeblood from reaching the heart or brain. 

Lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart or brain can result in a stroke. If not treated immediately, a stroke can be fatal.
Even a small amount of trans fat can be bad for you. That is why the government has set a limit of zero trans fat for humans.

However, food manufacturers can put anything under .5 grams of trans fat per serving in food without having to list the amount on food labels. Therefore, you have to know which foods might have some level of trans fat, even if it is not listed on the nutrition panel.

If the nutrition panel says zero (0), you will need to read the ingredients listing to see what types of fat might have been used in the manufacture of a particular product. If you see words like margarine, shortening, hydrogenated fat, hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, on the package, these are clues that the product is made with trans fat. Do your best to avoid such products.

Your next step: Talk to a registered dietitian.