Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Government Officials: "It's Time to Ban Trans Fats"

The term 'Trans Fats' is among the most feared and loaded terms in our vocabulary today, but it's also probably one of the least understood as well. People know that they should avoid trans fats and that they are very bad for their health, but they probably don't know why. And that lack of understanding inherently leads to a decrease in actually caring about avoiding them. I mean, you can know that potato chips and Oreos are bad for you - but if you can't explain why then you'll just eat them, enjoy them, and act like you did a bad thing if anyone catches you. Otherwise, you'll just go on with life as usual! Correct me if I'm wrong. Well, trans fats are no joke; it's time to finally get serious about trans fats. Read on to find out why.

For starters, trans fats serve absolutely no purpose in our diets - they are not nutrients that we need at all. Unlike saturated or unsaturated fats, trans fats are created when foods are processed. They are either a by-product of processing or a deliberate action taken to make foods more stable so that they will last longer without spoiling or obtain some 'desirable' characteristic for consumers. It was previously thought that trans and saturated fats behaved the same way once metabolized by our bodies, but this has now proven to be incorrect. Trans fats are worse - way worse.

Saturated fats act to raise our levels of LDL cholesterol (the 'bad' kind), whereas trans fats not only raise LDL, they also decrease levels of HDL (the 'good' kind). This not only skews your lipid profile in the wrong direction, but it's very difficult to fix. The only known and proven way to raise HDL cholesterol without medication is to engage in cardiovascular exercise - it's really hard to do with dietary means and there's little evidence that specific foods will actually help. You can try adding in more soluble fibre and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet to offshoot other fats and attempt to raise your HDL levels, but again, it's tough.

There's been a big push for companies to reduce levels of trans fats in their products, but so far, it's just been voluntary. Government officials are now saying 'enough is enough' and are pushing for reductions in trans fats to be mandatory. Thank goodness! While I agree that we should all have a choice as to what we put into our bodies, we also have to realize that we would be much healthier and would place a far lesser burden on our health care system if these disease-causing compounds were simply unavailable in our foods in the first place!