The History of Trans Fats
In 1901, Wilhelm Normann, a German chemist developed a method called Hydrogenation of fats. We get trans fats as a result of hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats. Now, to put it simply, the hydrogenation is a process of heating oil and letting hydrogen gas through it. This way, unsaturated fatty acids bind the hydrogen, which makes them thicker. If we completely hydrogenate the oil, as a results we get solid fat. And If we stop the process halfway through, we get fat that is partially hydrogenated, similar to butter. Which we in fact use as a cheaper alternative for butter and that is margarine.
Where & How Are Trans Fats Used?
In food industry, we use trans fats to keep the “fats” solid on a room temperature. Therefore extending the expiration date for the products containing them. They also bring to better lubricity and taste e.g. Margarine and other creamy products. Even with the attempt in switching trans fats with saturated fats, we get “less stable and less profitable” firmness of the product. So the trans fats are “more profitable” but for the cost of our health.
We make them in the process of refining the plant based oils (that contain unsaturated fatty acids). Which we then use to extend the oil product’s expiration date. We can also make these fats by frying in oil on 100 ºC (300 ºF). Saturated fats such as butter, lard, coconut oil are “trans fat free”. Meaning that while In the process of frying (They don’t transform to trans fats.)
Health Effects & Diseases Caused by Trans Fats
The (Un)importance of trans fats is in preventing the absorption of essential fatty acids (primarily Omega-3). While at the same time “switching place” with essential fatty acids in cell membrane, therefore changing her permeability. All of this disables the normal transport of glucose into cells, and that way brings to insulin resistance. After a meal, glucose level in our blood increases. Insulin has a function to get the glucose to our “hungry” cells. Now since our cell membrane becomes un-absorbent for glucose, insulin secretion increases which brings to cell combustion. Which generates insulin in pancreas and develops a type 2 diabetes.
They also disturb the balance between LDL and HDL (plasma lipoproteins). The LDL levels increases (low-density lipoprotein in charge of transporting cholesterol. From liver to other parts e.g. blood cells.). while HDL levels drop (“cholesterol cleaner”). This way they actively participate in developing Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a modern age disease that creates atheroma “fat plaques” on walls of our blood vessels. This brings to reduced blood flow which leads to angina pectoris, heart attack, DVT(deep vein thrombosis)…
Which Foods Contain Trans Fats?
Foods containing the most trans fats are mostly “junk food” specialties. Such as: fries, chips, mayonnaise, sweets such as donuts, oil fried meat… Foods we prepare in fryers using the same oil multiple times. Some of the food manufacturers are trying so hard to implement various advanced technological processes. They want to remove trans fats from their products and replace them with more healthier ingredients. After all, our health is more important than money – or at least that’s how it should be.