Effects of Trans Fats on your Health

Trans fatty acids negatively alter the lipid profile and cellular functions, accumulating in adipose tissue and cell membranes’ phospholipids. Consuming these fats poses a health risk, increasing levels of bad cholesterol and reducing good cholesterol, thus raising the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The World Health Organization recommends keeping trans fat consumption below 1% of total daily kilocalories.

The most common trans fats result from oil hydrogenation, a process introduced in the twentieth century to stabilize oils and reduce susceptibility to oxidation, yielding solid fats. Hydrogenation, carried out under pressure and temperature with a metal catalyst bubbling hydrogen gas into the oil, can lead to full or partial hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenated products contain saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids in small quantities. Another method for trans fat production is oil refining, subjecting oils to temperatures of 200º-230º, common in homemade frying. Though cardiovascular diseases pose the greatest risk from these fats, other health issues arise. For instance, nursing mothers may pass on trans fats if they consume them, and studies link their intake to atherosclerosis and cardiac arrest risk due to trans isomers of oleic acid concentration in adipose tissue.

Trans fatty acids are present in various foods:

  • Meats: Pork (0.20%), beef (21.30%), chicken (0.24% -4.71%), pork sausages (0.20% -3.40%), sausages (0.30% -6.40%), beef sausages (4.40%).
  • Dairy: Cow’s milk (1.50% -5.20%), cheeses and creams have slightly higher amounts, while butters can range from none to 7.90%. Ice creams contain around 2.63% to 6.07% if made with milk fats, and 14% to 31% with partially hydrogenated vegetable fats.
  • Oils: Extra virgin olive oil lacks trans fats, but refined olive oils, produced at high temperatures, contain 0.10% to 0.50%. Margarine content varies by country, ranging from 0.2% to 46.4%.
  • Other foods: Ingredients used in snacks, ice cream, and chocolate toppings typically contain about 6.55% trans fats.
  • Flours and derivatives: Bread in European Union countries contains 0.52% to 6% trans fats, with Spain leading in sliced bread (17.35%) and pizzas (10.40%).

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