Dr. Fuhrman Dr. Fuhrman

Dangerfoods: Trans Fat


What is trans fat

Trans fat is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. This process, called hydrogenation, makes liquid oils like soybean and sunflower oil more solid and increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods containing these fats.

In the USA, trans fat content is on the Nutrition Facts label, but beware: products are allowed to advertise that they are trans fat free even if there is 0.5 grams of trans fat per portion. Some food manufacturers make their portions ridiculously small (1 portion of potato chips is something like 15 grams). The trans fat content of those "trans fat free" snacks still adds up. If the trans fat content is not on a label, check the ingredients. If there is hydrogenated oil on it, there is trans fat in it.

Like aspartame, you do not make trans fat (or: trans fatty acids) in your kitchen. This, of course, is enough to raise the suspicion of many health food advocates who point to trans fat as the main cause of many diseases.

What are the claims

Trans fat is said to cause heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and, like every dangerfood, many other diseases.

What is the evidence

Unlike with the other dangerfoods, Food authorities all over the world agree that trans fat is bad and should be limited. There are no web pages from trans fat manufacturers that reassure us about its safety.

My conclusion

Trans fat is bad for you. Don't eat it.

That said, other extracted vegetable oils are not particularly good for you either, especially not if you eat foods that are fried in it. Trans fat is often present in heavily processed foods that you should avoid anyway. The best sources of trans fat are donuts, potato chips, french fries and cookies. If you replace the trans fat in those products with non-hydrogenated vegetable oils, they do not suddenly become healthy. I believe the current anti-trans-fat craze is dangerous because fast food outlets now actually label their soy bean oil fried fries as "heart healthy".

Further reading

Harvard's Nutritionsource on Trans Fats.

July 28, 2006