Trans fats and your health

Why have hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats been so common in packaged foods? Quite simply, they help prolong shelf life. Whereas natural fats and oils go rancid and spoil, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils do not.

Why have hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats been so common in packaged foods? Quite simply, they help prolong shelf life. Whereas natural fats and oils go rancid and spoil, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils do not.

by Dr. Mark Force — 

Most people who closely monitor their diets know that partially hydrogenated oil contains trans fat that clogs the arteries and reduces the “good” cholesterol that helps unclog arteries. Beginning next year, companies must disclose trans fat amounts on food labels. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is going to have to do more than change food labels to protect the public from heart-threatening fats.

One problem, detailed in a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is that some companies do not use trans fats, but they do use other dangerous oils. Other companies, searching for trans fat alternatives, are turning to unhealthy fats. The most popular is palm oil, a saturated fat that is widely believed to promote heart disease and whose main distinction is that it is less harmful than trans fat.

Why have hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats been so common in packaged foods? Quite simply, they help prolong shelf life. Whereas natural fats and oils go rancid and spoil, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils do not.

Some companies that make products containing palm oil, including Newman’s Own Organics popcorn and cookies, emphasize on their packages that their products are trans fat free and note the relative advantage of palm oil over trans fats. All this does is create the false impression that palm oil is good for you. The FDA should act quickly to stop labels that could mislead consumers. The agency should also encourage the use of healthier alternatives, like certain safflower and sunflower oils, and promising new blends.

The ultimate aim, however, should be to end the widespread use of partially hydrogenated oils. As things now stand, the FDA acknowledges that trans fats are unhealthy at any level; yet, they maintain that the partially hydrogenated oils that contain them are basically safe. The agency cannot have it both ways. Public health would be greatly improved if the FDA prohibited their use entirely.

The research has supported this message for the last 20 years. Avoid hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, eat unrefined foods and carefully scrutinize the labels on any prepackaged or canned foods. These synthetic oils are prevalent, but not unavoidable. In the bigger picture, these oils are more harmful to your health than sugar, artificial sweeteners, colorings and preservatives.

Good quality fats, including olive, sesame, flax, fish, almond and walnut oils, are healthy for you when they are part of a diet that relies on organic and unrefined foods and is high in raw foods. This is also true for the fats in whole-milk products such as milk, cheese, yogurt or butter, as well as meats and egg yolks. Used in moderation, they are an important part of the diet and provide nutrients, such as essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins and minerals that are otherwise difficult to add to our diets.

 

Mark Force, D.C., is a chiropractic physician at The Elements of Health in north Scottsdale, Ariz., and the author of Choosing Health: Dr. Force’s Functional Selfcare Workbook. 480-563-4256 or theelementsofhealth.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 5, October/November 2005

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