Watch out for trans fats that food manufacturers like to sneak into foods in small quantities that don’t have to be listed on the labels.
A series of research studies show that trans-fats increase heart disease and diabetes risk and significantly compromise quality of life. They’ve also been linked to brain deterioration, poor cognition, and cause increased bodily pain.
The bad news goes on: Trans fats have been linked with increased risk of obesity, getting Alzheimer’s, being seriously depressed, having high levels of inflammation, and cancer risk.
Trans fats are man-made fats that have been chemically altered so that they negatively influence metabolism and cognition. They are created when vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated. They are often present in margarine and shortening, and despite being eliminated from a lot of products, are still found in high levels in prepared foods.
Trans-fats are banned in restaurants in California, and some cities in the East have followed suit. The FDA requires that foods be labeled if they contain trans-fat, however, there’s a loophole: If a food contains less than 0.5 g of trans-fats, it can say “trans-fat free” on the label, but you will still find partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients. A classic example is commercial peanut butter that contains trans-fat to prevent oil separation.
A new study published in Nutrition Journal shows how bad trans-fat is. Researchers surveyed 8,430 people living in Spain regarding their diet, health, mood, cognitive ability, and other factors. Results showed that those who had higher amounts of trans-fats in their diets (about 2 grams a day) experienced the following poor health:
- Significant bodily pain on a daily basis.
- Low vitality and poor social functioning.
- Emotional problems and poor cognition.
- An overall poor quality of life and lack of happiness.
These results are alarming because the median intake of trans-fat in the Spanish population surveyed was 1 gram of trans-fat a day, which is much lower than the average consumption in the U.S. and Canada, both at 3 to 4 grams a day. In addition, there was evidence that since the Spanish population ate a typical Mediterranean diet, the high level of olive oil and other healthy fats may have had a protective effect.
Researchers think that trans-fats affect the brain by causing inflammation in the body that interferes with chemical transmitter function. These unhealthy fats specifically appear to decrease levels of a hormone called BDNF that is necessary for brain cell survival, the ability to learn, and metabolic processes.
This is not the first study to identify a link between poor quality of life and psychological issues linked with trans-fat intake. An American study found a ”robust” association between unhappiness and aggressive behaviors that was linked with trans-fat intake.
The following are some tips to help you avoid trans-fats from getting into your diet:
- The easiest way to avoid trans-fats is to only eat whole foods and never eat packaged foods.
- If you do eat packaged foods, read ALL ingredient labels. The words “hydrogenated” and “partially hydrogenated” are used interchangeably. If a food label says “fully hydrogenated oil,” then it will be trans-fat free but should still be avoided because the fat has still been synthetically altered.
- Though it’s unlikely the readership eats any of these foods, the following brands use large amounts of trans-fat in their products: White Castle, Long John Silver’s, Marie Callender’s, Pop Secret, Pillsbury, Jolly Time, Utz, Betty Crocker, Sara Lee, Safeway, and Wal-Mart’s Great Value brand.