Alternative Health Care News

Hydrogenated (trans) Fats Being Whitewashed

Have you heard the latest? The medical community is attempting to change public perception of trans fat! After all the bad publicity about how dangerous hydrogenated fats are to the health of your heart, the latest article on WebMD [dated March 7, 2008] attempts to cloud the issue by asserting that “Not All Trans Fats are Equally Risky.”

If you read this article, you might think that trans fats are something natural, and therefore, OK. The article actually states “Trans fats, or ‘trans fatty acids,’ come in two forms:

Industrial trans fats are artificially created by manufacturers by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils; these are called ‘partially hydrogenated oils.’ This makes the oils more solid to give foods like cookies, pies and french fries a rich, crispy texture.

Natural trans fats are found in meat (cow, sheep and goat) and dairy products. These trans fats are made naturally in the stomach of these animals.”

Now, with just a cursory reading, doesn’t that make it sound like hydrogenated oils are simply an offshoot of a naturally occurring substance?

Well, the truth is something quite different. There are minute amounts of trans fats in dairy and meat products, specifically those made from C18 monounsaturated fatty acids, almost half of which are a substance called vaccenic acid. This trans fat is metabolized by humans into conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has protective influences on the heart and blood fats.  

However, that is a far cry from the “industrial” trans fats that now comprise such a large part of the American diet. The problem is that this information is being used to desensitize people to the harm trans fats can cause. One example comes from the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency, which wrote in a letter dated September 21, 2004 that “The main issue with hydrogenated fats relates to their content of trans unsaturated fatty acids (trans fats). These trans fats occur in nature in dairy produce and the flesh of ruminants, e.g. beef, lamb.”

This is downright misleading. Unfortunately for the margarine industry, the latest studies demonstrate that artificial (or industrial) trans fats reduced HDL (or good) cholesterol and raised LDL (or bad) cholesterol. The naturally occurring compounds, which the body can actually metabolize had no such effect.

Therefore, you shouldn’t be concerned about the tiny amount of trans fats in dairy products. However, you need to be vigilant about hydrogenated oils or shortening added to prepared foods that you consume. And, above all, read every news release carefully so as not to be fooled by the food industry!

Does this apply to you? If so, see our information on Consultations.