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Why should I avoid trans fats?

Eric Olsen
Fitness
Trans fat or trans-fatty acid is a type of fat that, research reveals, is a dangerous substance produced in the process of hydrogenation. It's not only saturated fats in animal products or hydrogenated vegetable oils that are bad for health; so are these trans-fatty acids.

The Nurses' Health Study of some 85,000 women found that subjects who consumed large amounts of margarine and shortening used in cookies, bread, and other baked goods had a 70 percent higher risk of heart disease than women who used little or none.

Another study of the dietary habits of 239 heart attack patients and 282 healthy people looked at the amount of trans-fatty acids in their diets and found that the risk of heart attack was twice as high among those who consumed the most trans-fatty acids compared with those who consumed the least.
Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

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Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Trans fat is a type of unsaturated fat that is made saturated during a manufacturing process that adds a molecule of hydrogen. These hydrogenated oils raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol and cause a host of cardiovascular diseases. They are slowly being removed from commercial recipes but products in your home may still contain them. Look in your cupboard and dump anything with hydrogenated oil on the label.
Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, are particularly dangerous for your health. Trans fats have the same effect as saturated fats on your cholesterol levels; however, they also elevate your triglycerides and increase your risk of heart attack, coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Trans fats are found in vegetable oils that have undergone hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation. For example, you might see partially hydrogenated oil listed as an ingredient on a product. 
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.
Trans fats are similar in structure to saturated fats and also raise levels of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. Trans fats may also raise blood triglycerides and lower HDL cholesterol.
Alan Greene, MD
Pediatrics
Trans fats are fats that have been chemically altered to make them more shelf-stable; however, they are toxic to our arteries so it's best to avoid eating them. In this video, pediatrician Alan Greene, MD, explains how to best 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.
Margaret Floyd
Nutrition & Dietetics
Partially or fully hydrogenated oils are the dreaded "trans fats" we hear so much about. According to researchers, these fats have been shown to increase low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) --  the "bad" cholesterols -- and lower high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the "good" cholesterol. They also contribute to a host of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, immune-system problems, and reproductive challenges.
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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. 
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Trans fat used to be called "the hidden fat" because it wasn't listed on food labels until 2005. If one of the first five ingredients on a label is milk fat, fat from four-legged animals saturated fat, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, don't buy that product. Saturated and trans fats turn on genes that increase protein production, and this in turn causes or contributes to inflammation of the arteries. Inflammation of your arteries is one of the major causes of aging you will want to avoid. This increased aging of the arteries and immune system makes you slower today and more likely to experience impotence, wrinkling of the skin, heart disease, stroke, memory loss, serious infections, and cancer.
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Avoid trans fats, because they are even worse for you than saturated fat, not only raising LDH (bad) cholesterol but also lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Trans fats raise inflammatory factors in the blood and are strongly linked with heart disease and the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Trans fat is a vegetable oil that has been turned into a solid fat (e.g., shortening or margarine) by heating it with hydrogen. This process is called hydrogenation. There is no safe amount of trans fat in the diet.

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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.