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Why should I avoid trans fats?

Trans fat has been shown to not only increase the bad “LDL” cholesterol in the blood, but it also can decrease the good “HDL” cholesterol, which is a very heart-unhealthy combination. Since 2006, the federal government has required that trans fat be listed on the Nutrition Facts panel on the food label to help consumers make an informed choice when shopping. Not too surprisingly, many food manufacturers reformulated their products to remove the trans fat because of this food labeling policy.

Bakery products and desserts that claim to have "0 grams of trans fats" often times give consumers the false sense that these sweets and treats have become a healthier food choice. Unfortunately, when you remove the trans fat from a donut sold in bakery, you end up with, well, a donut. The donut didn’t miraculously get converted into an apple or another naturally healthy produce item once the trans fat has been removed. It will still contain about 300 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 12 grams of sugar or the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar.
Are you noticing more trans fat-free offerings in your grocery store? New research shows that trans fat isn't just bad for your heart. It may also increase your risk of colon cancer.

Researchers recently reviewed the health of 622 colonoscopy patients and came up with plenty of fuel for the down-with-trans fats fire. People who ate the most trans fat -- an average of 6.5 grams per day -- were 86% more likely to have potentially precancerous colon polyps compared with those who consumed the least trans fat -- about 3.6 grams or less per day. It seems that trans fats can disturb the colon's normal, healthy balance of bile and fatty acids and damage the mucus that protects this organ.

For heart health, the American Heart Association recommends that no more than 1% of your daily calories come from trans fat. That means if you eat 2,000 calories a day, no more than 2 grams should come from trans fat. Since trans fat is found mostly in packaged sweets, frozen dishes and fried foods, steering clear of them will help. Your other option is to closely read the list of ingredients, keeping in mind that even products labeled trans fat-free can still have up to 0.5 grams of the stuff per serving.

So cut down on anything that lists hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils among the ingredients -- "hydrogenated" is a red flag for trans fat.
Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics
Trans fats not only increases your bad cholesterol but also lowers your good cholesterol. People with the greatest amount of trans fats in their cell membrane have higher risk of a heart disease. Animal studies has shown that trans fatty acids may affect redistribution to fat to the abdominal area.

Research has linked trans fat to increasing the risk of diabetes type 2 and raising triglyceride levels. 
Trans fatty acids are formed when liquid fat is made hard (hydrogenated). Trans fats act like saturated fats and raise blood cholesterol levels. Although some trans fats are found naturally in food, most come from partially hydrogenated fats, which are commonly found in stick margarine, baked goods, and snack crackers and chips.

Continue Learning about Trans Fats

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Why Should I Avoid Trans Fats?
Why Should I Avoid Trans Fats?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.