Fat is entering the forefront when it comes to understanding wellness. Nutritional education has created an understanding that not all fat is bad fat (read 5 healthy fatty foods to boost weight loss). Some saturated fats are actually necessary to aid in digestion and wellness. However, there is still the lingering boogie man of fats, trans fat, that has weaseled its way into many of the foods and products that line market shelves.
So what are the dangers of trans fats? We asked Board Certified Health Coach and Sports Nutritionist, Brandon Mentore, to weigh in on trans fats fallacies.
What is Trans Fat?
Mentore explains, "Most people already know that eating processed foods is a bad thing, well trans fat is the end product when most foods are processed. Trans fats are made when unsaturated oils are partially hydrogenated, which helps them to become more solid. This extends the shelf life of a product that contains them." By extending the shelf life of a product, food manufacturers are able to rake in more money by selling these foods for much longer than fresh-based foods (in many cases, even years longer).
What are the Dangers of Trans Fat?
"Trans fats can cause not only weight gain but have also been linked to the top diseases, such as obesity, alzheimers, diabetes, cancer and coronary artery disease," Mentore states. He goes on to inform us that trans fats can also significantly contribute to weight gain in a few ways. "Trans fats are pro-inflammatory by nature, and any kind of inflammation will create distress in the body, such as free radicals, oxidative stress, and high cortisol. This leads to several reactions that will cause weight gain, particularly in the gut. Inflammation causes swelling, redness and irritation internally and this will present with an increase in weight and bloat. Due to their inflammatory nature, broken down trans fats can get deposited on the arterial walls of your circulatory system, and they can also cross the blood brain barrier which creates inflammation in the brain which can lead to alzheimers. Your body can store these fats as well in adipose tissue which will increase your body fat percentage and cause weight gain. Not only are they inflammatory, but the body has a tough time digesting these types of fats. Being unrecognizable, your digestive system gets disrupted in an effort to metabolize these fats. Inability to digest these fats causes stress to the organs which sets off the immune system and feeds the fires of inflammation even more. This will all lead to serious weight gain."
How Can We Avoid Trans Fats?
It's actually not all that difficult to eliminate trans fats from your diet. Mentore instructs us to be sure to read all labels on foods that we buy. Avoid anything that says "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" as these are indicators of trans fats.