Are trans fats dangerous?
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that a food additive called "trans fat" is an unhealthy food additive and wants to remove it completely from processed foods. This is the result of several years of research by the medical community and gradually increasing public awareness of the dangers of these ingredients in our food. Trans fats are created by partially breaking down vegetable oils. They are popular among food manufacturers because they take a long time to break down and can be modified to make processed foods taste better. They are found in deep fried fast food, bakery items, packaged snacks, margarine and crackers. This is not a small problem. In the United States, roughly 2-3 percent of our daily calories come from trans fats.
The reason they are dangerous is that they increase risk of cardiovascular disease substantially. They increase inflammation in blood vessels, which raises the risk of heart attacks, diabetes, and congestive heart failure. They increase levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and lower levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol in the bloodstream. They have also been found to increase rates of sudden cardiac death. In summary, they have no nutritional value and increase risk significantly.
There are alternative ingredients, which is good news for all of us. We trust the FDA to make sure that our medications and food additives are safe for us to consume. In this case, they have found an additive that provides no benefit and lots of harm, which is why we should all be glad that they have taken action to remove this from our diet.
Reference article: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra054035
Erik Johnson, MD, FACS, is Board Certified in general surgery and in colon and rectal surgery, and practices at Aurora BayCare Medical Center. Dr. Johnson received his education at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and completed two fellowships, one at Ferguson Clinic in colorectal and one at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in oncology. Learn more here.