So by now most of my readers (that's you!) should be aware that I'm a fan of eating day in your diet. Healthy fats that come from nature don't do damage and are actually vital for proper development and performance of the human body. However, there is one type of fat that I'm not a fan of. It's a manufactured fat that isn't found in nature and has been linked with lots of ailments. The thing is, lots of manufacturers use these "trans fats" in their food as they're cheap and easy to manipulate.
What are they though?
In nature the function of something is generally defined by its shape. I.e. the chemical structure of food will change how you body decides to use it. Most natural fats are found in a shape known as "cis" (it's to do with the chemical bonds) and have a particular shape that our bodies recognise. Trans fats, however, have a very similar shape and structure but are just a little different (due tot he different type of chemical bonds). This slightly different structure, and the fact their structure is easily created and changed, is enough to enable manufacturers to create fats that hold many different properties. Lots are used to make foods chewy at room temperature and generally last on the shelf longer.
There's a problem though. Once this slightly different shaped fat gets into your stomach your body tries to use it for 'normal' things it would use a fat for (hormones, nerves, brain function etc). Due to the fact these fats are just so slightly different when they arrive at their destination to do their desired job they can't fulfil it properly. This leads to poor efficiency and waste products such as free radicals (linked to cancer and DNA damage).
Now the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the USA is making a move to ban their use in foods. Foods such as margarine, baked goods, sweets and pre prepared meals are generally quite high in trans fats and would be forced to change. This could be a good thing, if manufacturers replaced then with natural fats that our bodies require but I'm not so sure that'll happen. That's quite expensive and the natural fats aren't as good at a keeping things 'fresh' and chewy. I think manufacturers will just invent new processes and ingredients to mimic the role of trans fats with who knows what impact on our bodies?!?! I read a great line a while ago that said trans fats may increase the shelf life of the food they're in, but they reduce the shelf life of the human that consumes it.
So what should you do?
First off don't panic! As with any food choice there lots you can do to Reece your exposure. Surprise surprise, most of it follows the same advice I give quite often. Avoid processed foods. Eat natural occurring foods with no additives. Cool from scratch so you know what's in your meals. Eat butter and lard rather than margarine. Once agin, if it comes out of a factory and has been manufactured then chances are it's not going to r good for you!
Unfortunately unlike most foods that tend to be OK in small doses trans fats appear to do damage in small doses too, so my advice would be to avoid completely if at all possible...