Understanding Trans Fats

Trans fat or trans fatty acids is a type of unsaturated fat with trans-isomer fatty acids. Trans fat can either be mono-unsaturated fat or polyunsaturated fat. Trans fat can come from adding another hydrogen molecule to vegetable oil in a process called hydrogenation.

Advantages of Trans Fats

This type of saturated fats have a higher melting point, which makes them less likely to spoil. And since trans fats are more solid than oil, they can be stored for longer periods without spoiling. Using trans fat in baking and food manufacturing allows the finished products to have a less greasy feel as well as a longer shelf life.

Because they are unsaturated fats, many researchers believe that they are good alternatives for animal fat. But recent and surprising discoveries have made scientists think otherwise. Trans fat seems to increase LDL or bad cholesterol and decrease the HDL or good cholesterol levels in the body.

Trans Fat and Food

Because trans fat is known to help extend the shelf life of commercial baked goods, it has been extensively used in the manufacture of crackers, cookies cakes and other baked goods. Many fried foods such as dough nuts and french fries are known to contain high levels of trans fat. Some margarines and shortenings are high in trans fat.

Regulating Trans Fat Use

The use of trans fat in the food industry used to be very common. But up until the recent discoveries that it might aid in increasing bad cholesterol, many companies have been using it less. This issue also have led to the Food and Drug Administration to issue a regulation that require manufacturers to list trans fat content of their products on the Nutrition Facts panel of their package.

Unfortunately products that may contain 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving can still be listed as zero grams on the product’s food label. Although this might be a negligible amount, eating multiple servings can sometimes exceed the recommended levels of trans fat consumption.