In our local Women's Conference at church four or so years ago, one speaker addressed us about nutrition. I remember her telling us about trans fats, and how they were terrible things to avoid; they make rats dumb and fat, unable to use their heads to get themselves through mazes. She said trans fats give items a long shelf life, so producers love to use them, and they're in everything: crackers, chips, etc., and I later learned in shortening, peanut butter, and lots of our goods with flour in them like breakfast bars and cake mixes. She said that they weren't on the nutrition label yet, but shortly it would be required, and in the mean time to read ingredient labels for partially hydrogenated oils and to avoid them.
Well, time passed, and trans fats became labeled. All the things I had been taught contained trans fats had "zero" trans fat on the label. I have only found one product in all of my existence that said it had "trace amounts of trans fat," but still zero trans fat. I was so confused. Everything I knew about trans fat became fuzzy to me, I couldn't even write about it until just a week or two ago.
Apparently, zero does not mean zero in Washington D.C., and there is deception in our food labels. Watch "Deceptive food labels" video.
It is still true that trans fats are not good for us, and basically they're hydrogenated oils. I have no idea how producers are saying their products have zero trans fat, because its in everything. I'm looking at my can of Crisco right now, and it says zero trans fat. It has 1. soybean oil 2. fully hydrogenated oil (is that okay?) 3. partially hydrogenated oil (the culprit), and then on to lots of other things I'd rather not eat such as TBHQ and citric acid which is probably derived from corn. So, how could this be, zero trans fat?
Anyways, I would think it wise look for and to avoid the partially hydrogenated oils. Doctors and dieticians advise it. Trans fats "disrupt cellular function and interfere with the use of essential fatty acids in the body... Breast cancer rates are directly tied to trans fat consumption (Barbee, p29)." "Trans fats [partially hydrogenated vegetable oils] have been implicated in higher risks of developing both heart disease and cancer. The list of problems associated with the consumption of trans fats, unfortunately, is not a short one: heart disease, obesity (by increasing the size of the fat cells), diabetes, low birth weight, allergies, asthma, and immunte dysfunction(Barbee, p26)."
Trans fats are created "by the deoderization process designed to mask vegetable oil rancidity or throught eh hydrogenatoin process to maek the oil firm, and are found today in countless baked an d processed ofoods They were identified as unhealthy as far back as 1958," says Barbee. "A recent report at The National Academy of Science's Institue of Medicine concluded that the safe amount of trans fat in our food is 'zero'."
Now, the clincher: trans fat is touted as a great way to avoid "saturated fats". Thus, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), (which I quoted in "12 food additives to avoid," as not to be fully trusted (I was right!)) with all good intentions tried to interfere with McDonalds to reduce their use of saturated fats on french fries. Thus, now McDonald's french fries are slathered in hydrogenated oils which plummets fry health value to a food of death, and the thing is, saturated fat isn't even something to avoid; the American Heart Association has us all misinformed. Read Julie & Julia!
CSPI was aghast with all the saturated fat on theater popcorn, and now that's full of trans fat, too, in place of the healthy coconut oil! CPSI acknowledged: 'Until the early 1900s, if you wanted a solid fat for your pie crust, you had to choose between lard, butter, or beef tallow. In 1911, Procter and Gamble changed all that when it introduced Crisco, a shortening made by hydrogenating a liquid oil (cottonseed)." It is a mystery why CSPI couldn't put two and two together and see that it was at this very time in our history that heart disease rates began to climb. Healthy, natural animal fats were replaced with polyunsaturated and hydrogenated oils (Barbee)."A Harvard University study showed higher intakes o ftrans fats in those who developed heart diseas.
A significant risk factor for developing heart disease is high levels of a substance in the blood called lipoprotein(a). This Lp(a) is a 'sticky' variant of LDL cholesterol and appears to help form arterial plaques. Saturated fat lowers levels of this damaging substance while consumption of trans fat raises the amount of Lp(a) in the blood. Cell membranes simply prefer saturated fat, but through their advertising, promoters of the vegetable oil industry have tried to convince us otherwise. A high consumption of polyunsaturated fats, however, has long been connected to the development of cancer and heart disease.
The Dutch government has banned the sale of margarine containing trans fats. Government regulations [in the U.S.] permit products to be labeled as "all natural" even if they have trans fats added to them in the form of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. The trans fats found in these oils do not behave like the trans fats that occur naturally in small amounts in certain animal foods like milk. Natural trans fats are converted to benefiecial conjugated linoleic acid or to energy. To say that the partially hydrogenated oil added to countless food products is 'natural' is more than a little deceitful. ...It is foreign and toxic.
Update July 24, 2010:
So, watching this video by nutritionist Rhadia Gleis, I think I understand that the hydrogenation process used to make fats stable goes a little flukey sometimes and creates trans fat. So, I guess that's how something made completely of hydrogenated components (such as shortening) can have only a little trans fat in it. Its just a percentage that goes haywire in the chemical process. The recommended intake of trans fat is zero trans fat (as it is zero for lead, BPA, etc.). However, I think even though all our labels say zero trans fat it doesn't mean it doesn't have it. As one person states "zero in Washington [D.C.] doesn't mean zero."