Trans fats have long been a staple of modern diets, but their dangers to human health have only recently come to light. These artificial fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation, giving the oil a longer shelf life and a higher melting point. However, while they might be useful for food manufacturers, trans fats are incredibly harmful to our bodies. In this article, we will be going over the dangers of trans fats to our overall health.
Increased Risk of Heart Disease
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that have been shown to increase levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and decrease levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. This can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. When consumed in excess, trans fats can also contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Several studies have found a strong link between high consumption of trans fats and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. This is because trans fats can impair insulin sensitivity, which is the body's ability to use insulin effectively to regulate blood sugar levels. When insulin sensitivity is impaired, it can lead to high blood sugar levels and eventually to the development of type 2 diabetes.
One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who consumed the highest amounts of trans fats had a 40% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who consumed the least. Another study published in Diabetes Care found that people who consumed high levels of trans fats had significantly higher levels of insulin resistance than those who consumed low levels.
In addition to impairing insulin sensitivity, trans fats can also cause inflammation in the body. This can further contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes by damaging cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
Negative Impact on Brain Function
In addition to their harmful effects on heart health and diabetes risk, trans fats can also have negative impacts on brain function and memory retention. A study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that people who consumed high levels of trans fats had worse cognitive performance and smaller brain volumes than those who consumed low levels.
Increased Inflammation in the Body
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that have been shown to cause inflammation in the body. This is because they can interfere with the body's natural inflammatory response and trigger an overactive immune system. When left unchecked, chronic inflammation can lead to a number of health problems including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other chronic diseases.
One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed high levels of trans fats had significantly higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation in the body. Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that reducing trans fat intake by just 2% could reduce rates of heart disease by up to 6%.
Foods That are High in Trans Fats
Here is a list of popular foods that are high in trans fats:
Fried foods like french fries, fried chicken, and donuts
Baked goods like cakes, cookies, and pies
Processed snack foods like crackers, chips, and popcorn
Margarine and vegetable shortening
Non-dairy creamers and flavored coffee creamers
Frozen meals and pre-packaged convenience foods
Fast food items such as burgers, pizza, and tacos
It's important to read food labels carefully and avoid products that list "partially hydrogenated oils" or "trans fats" on the ingredient list. While these foods can be enjoyed in moderation, it's best to choose whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats like nuts and avocado. By making these simple changes to your diet, you'll be taking an important step towards protecting your health and reducing your risk of disease.
Given these risks, it's important to avoid consuming trans fats as much as possible. To do this, try to limit your intake of processed foods like baked goods, fried foods, and snacks that contain partially hydrogenated oils. Instead, opt for whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats like nuts and avocado. By making these changes to your diet, you'll be taking an important step towards protecting your health and reducing your risk of disease.