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Poisons > Trans Fatty Acids - A hidden menace in our food

Trans fatty acids (TFAs) are unsaturated fats formed during the process of the hydrogenation of vegetable oils for food manufacturing.  Major sources of TFAs include margarines, bakery products, packaged snacks, deep fried fast foods, pastry goods and sandwich spreads like nut butters and others made with margarine or shortening.

TFAs are created by a process called hydrogenation in which vegetable oils are heated to very high temperatures and hydrogen is bubbled through it to harden the fat so it will not melt easily in high temperatures and the treated fat will then have a long shelf life.

Eating TFAs are known to increase the risks of both coronary artery disease and diabetes. TFA consumption lowers HDL-cholesterol concentrations and raises LDL-cholesterol, triacylglycerol, and lipoprotein(a) concentrations. However, these lipid effects of TFA intake do not account for the observed elevated risk of diabetes.

TFAs have no known nutritional benefits. They raise blood cholesterol levels, clog arteries, deplete good cholesterol, increase bad cholesterol, risk of heart disease and breast cancer. Research published in the British Medical Journal found a 23 per cent increase in coronary heart disease resulted after just a 2 percent increase in the consumption of trans fatty acids. The study concludes that near elimination of trans fatty acids in industrially produced food could avert 19 percent of coronary heart attacks a year.

In New Zealand coronary heart disease is the leading single cause of death. In Europe, the USA and some other countries now require that TFAs are listed on food labels, however the NZ Government has failed to pass legislation to require the TFAs be mandatory on food labels.

It is important not to confuse essential fatty acids and Trans fatty acids.

Essential Fatty Acids
Essential Fatty acids are essential for our cells to function normally and stay alive. They support the health of our cell membranes to allow the passage of necessary minerals and molecules in and out of our cells. Healthy cell membranes discourage dangerous chemicals and organisms like bacteria, viruses, moulds and parasites from entering the cell. These membranes also maintain chemical receptor sites for hormones, the body's crucial messengers. Fatty acids are involved in countless chemical processes in our bodies and are used as building blocks for certain hormones.

Two types of fatty acids—omega-3 and omega-6—cannot be made by our bodies and therefore must be obtained through our diets. They are called "essential fatty acids" (EFAs), and if we have an adequate supply we can use these EFAs to manufacture the other fatty acids we need.

EFA supplementation has been helpful to many people with allergies, anemia, arthritis, cancer, Candida, depression, diabetes, dry skin, eczema, fatigue, heart disease, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), psoriasis, sluggish metabolism, viral infections, etc., and in easing the addiction recovery process.

Naturally occurring fatty acids are evening primrose oil, fish oils and flax seed oil and EFA supplementation with these oils has been helpful to many people with allergies, anemia, arthritis, cancer, candida, depression, diabetes, dry skin, eczema, fatigue, heart disease, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), psoriasis, sluggish metabolism and viral infections, etc.

TFAs occur naturally in meat and dairy products, but in relatively small amounts.  It's important to take a holistic approach to the whole diet. Eradicating trans fat from your diet might not help your overall health if it means replacing it with things that are also bad for you. The American Heart Association suggests that by limiting your intake of fats and oils to about five to eight teaspoons daily so you won't get an excess of TFAs.

How to Avoid TFAs
Read the product labels
Use olive oil instead of butter or margarine on bread
Use ghee/clarified butter or lard for cooking
Adjust your menu to include more unprocessed foods low in saturated fat.
Avoid packaged snacks and most fast food.
Home cooking without shortening is less likely to contain hydrogenated oils.
Don't confuse trans fatty acids with omega-3 fatty acids, the heart-healthy fats found in fish.

Stephen Joseph - lawsuit over trans fatty acids in snack foods - Interview
The Margarine Hoax
Law Suit to ban the sale TFAs in the USA
Erasmus, Udo, Ph.D., Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, Alive Books, Burnaby, BC, Canada, 1987, 1993. Harvard Health Letter, Summer 1994.
Jaffe, Russell, M.D., Lipids (audiotape), 1992.
Siguel, Edward, M.D., Ph.D., Essential Fatty Acids in Health and Disease, Nutrek Press, Brookline, MA, USA, 1995.
Rudin, Donald, M.D., and Felix, Clara, The Omega-3 Phenomenon, Rawson, New York, USA, 1987.
Lipids, March 1996, 31:Suppl:S27982.
Finnegan, John, N.D., The Facts About Fats, Celestial Arts Publishing, Berkeley, CA, USA, 1993.
"Deficiency of essential fatty acids and membrane fluidity during pregnancy and lactation", Biochemistry, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, vol. 88, June 1991.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1967, 20:462-475.
The Lancet, 14 November 1987.
Circulation, January 1994, 89(1):94-101.
American Journal of Cardiology, 1993, 71:916-920.
Clinical Science, April 1995, 88(4):375-92.
Circulation, ibid.
The Lancet, March 1993, 341(8845):581-5.
Ornish, Dean, M.D., Dr Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease, Ballantine Books, New York, USA, 1990.


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