Sunday 9 March 2014

Trans Fats and Cardiovascular Disease

Many believe that saturated fat is a causative factor in cardiovascular disease. However, this viewpoint is based on little more than pseudoscience and propaganda. In fact more recent evidence exonerates saturated fat as a causative factor in cardiovascular disease and instead implicates other dietary fats. In particular synthetic trans fats that have adulterated our food supply are now known to be a major cause of disease.

Natural trans fatty acids

Some trans fatty acids are found naturally in food. In particular, ruminants produce trans fatty acids and when we drink their milk and eat their meat we consume these trans fatty acids. There is little evidence that such trans fats are bad for the health, and in fact consumption of milk is associated with a lower body weight and protection from disease. The main trans fat in ruminants is vaccenic acid and until recently this was the primary trans fat in the human diet.

Synthetic trans Fatty Acids

More recently other trans fats have entered the human food chain. These synthetic trans fats are structurally different to vaccenic acid and may have negative effects in the body. Synthetic trans fats are a product of hydrogenating vegetable oils to make them solid. Natural cis oils in the vegetable oils are structurally altered and twisted into the trans configuration, and this new structure is not recognised by human enzymes.

trans Fats Cause Metabolic Dysfunction

Because synthetic trans fatty acids are not recognised by human metabolising enzymes, when they are consumed they interfere with the metabolism of other fatty acids. In particular, synthetic trans fatty acids may inhibit the metabolism of the essential fatty acids and thus detrimentally alter cell regulation, inflammation and platelet aggregation. These changes increase the risk of cardiovascular disease significantly.

How To Avoid trans Fatty Acids

The natural trans fatty acids in ruminant foods are not detrimental to the health. However, synthetic trans fatty acids are. There is no known lower safe limit for these synthetic trans fatty acids and so they should be eliminated from the diet completely. This means avoiding the processed foods which contain them. High quality diets containing nutritious whole foods do not contain trans fatty acids and therefore eating healthily removes trans fats from the diet without effort.

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