Negative Effects of Trans Fats

Trans fats have received a lot of attention due to their negative effects on health. In fact, many places in the United States, such as New York City, Philadelphia and California, have pushed to decrease or remove the use of trans fats in schools, restaurants and food facilities. It is important to understand the negative effects of trans fat and which foods contain them so that you can make intelligent food decisions and maintain optimal health.

The Skinny on Trans Fat

Some trans fatty acids are naturally found in animal products; however, most are made through a process called hydrogenation. According to the American Heart Association, this process occurs when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils, making them more solid 1. Companies may use trans fats because they are cheap, easy to make and can increase shelf-stability.

Trans Fat and Health

According to the American Heart Association, trans fats can increase harmful low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, while decreasing good high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol 1. In turn, this can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, it has been associated with the development of type-2 diabetes.

The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada recommend that trans fatty acid intake be as low as possible, and the American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1 percent of calories from trans fatty acids 1. Following these recommendations is vital to prevent increasing your risk for heart disease.

Foods with Trans Fat

A variety of foods contain trans fats. It is most often found in fried foods, such as:

  • cookies
  • pies
  • crackers
  • pizza dough

One way to determine if a food contains trans fat is to look at the nutrition facts label. If a food does not contain more than half a gram of trans fat, however, it is not required to be listed on the label. Therefore, it`s a good idea to search the ingredient list. If the term "partially hyrdogenated oil" is listed, it means the product contains trans fat.

Additional Recommendations

In addition to avoiding dietary sources of trans fatty acids, replace them with moderate amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats can be found in foods such as nuts, avocados, peanut butter and olive oil. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in canola oil, walnuts, flax seed and fatty fish, such as tuna or salmon.