What Are Trans Fats: the health effects of trans fatty acids

May 25, 2009

Diets & Nutrition

Trans fatty acids aka trans fats are a type of unsaturated fats. Trans fats are usually found in meats, but most of the trans fats eaten today are contained in highly industrial processed foods. What differentiates trans fats from all the other fats is that trans fats aren’t either necessary or healthy for the human body. By eating too many foods rich in trans fats you increase your chance of getting heart diseases. That is why you should drastically reduce the quantity of trans fats that you eat.

The Wikipedia definition of trans fats is: “Trans fat is the common name for a type of unsaturated fat with trans-isomer fatty acid(s). Trans fats may be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated but never saturated.”


Trans fats are the main headline in several lawsuits against the giant fast food chains. This has made many large food corporations change their products recipes so that they don’t contain trans fats anymore.

From a chemical standpoint trans fats have the same components as the non-trans fats, but they have a different shape. In the trans molecules the double bonds between the carbon atoms are in a trans configuration. This makes it so that trans fats are less fluid and have a higher melting point than all the other fats.

A long time ago animal fats were the only source of trans fats. Now days the majority of the quantity of trans fats that you eat are the ones used by the food industry in the creation of their products. Partially hydrogenated oils are very appealing to the food companies for several reasons. For cooking they need semisolid foods and partial hydrogenated oils can replace animal fats used traditionally for this purpose (butter and lard). Also they are an alternative to the tropical semisolid oils like the palm oil. Because the partially hydrogenated oils can replace animal fats, the resulted foods can be eaten by vegetarians and people that are fasting.

The artificial food made by industrial hydrogenation can contain up to 45% trans fats. The United Stated National Academy of Sciences has reached the conclusion that there isn’t a safe limit when it comes to eating trans fats. The reason they stated is the fact that the introduction of any trans fat into the human body increases the risk of developing heart problems. The bad news is that they didn’t made any recommendation of eliminating trans fats from the populations nutrition. This is explained by the fact that trans fats are found naturally in many animal products, every meat eater consuming them daily. They believed that eliminating the trans fats from the diet altogether can have unknown secondary effects that will create greater health issues. If you want to eliminate the trans fats from your diet than you have to speak with a nutritionist so he can make you a healthy nutritious diet.

The health risks that trans fats increase aren’t just related to the health of your heart. Tests made over the years have shown heart diseases are the ones affected the most. All trans fats play a role in the appearance of diabetes. Recent studies have shown that there is a link between prostate cancer and eating foods containing trans fats. By eating trans fatty foods you will get obese faster and hinder your weight loss efforts. Your liver will suffer also if you indulge in eating trans fats.

You have to decide for yourself if you will reduce or not the quantity of trans fats that you eat. I recommend that you lower the amount of trans fatty acids you eat and start living a healthier life.

Find out What are lipids and the health benefits of fats. Also read The good fats and the bad fats short guide.

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