Trans Fats = Frankenfats—Why You Should Never Eat Them

Guest Article by Mark Hyman, MD

Thank God! Trans fats are banned at last. But they are still in our foods, so beware!

Recently, the FDA issued a ban on all trans fats, deeming them unsafe for human consumption, and it’s about time! For more than 20 years, the science has shown these fake FrankenFats to be hazardous to our health. Thankfully, the government has finally caught on.

Trans fat was invented for use in margarine and shortening. But do you know why they call it shortening? Because it shortens your life! It was supposed to be a better butter, but in fact, it’s worse. Did you know that if you put butter and margarine side by side, flies will land on the butter but they won’t land on the margarine? It’s just too toxic for them. The trans fat it’s made from is an oddly shaped fat that:

  • Slows your metabolism
  • Causes weight gain
  • Increases inflammation
  • Lowers your good cholesterol
  • Raises your bad cholesterol
  • Causes diabetes, obesity, heart attacks, strokes, dementia, cancer, and inflammation

The first step in getting trans fats out of our food supply was the change in food labeling laws. Food manufacturers actually had to put the amount of trans fat in their junk food on the label. But there was a loophole created by food industry lobbyists that allowed them to hide the trans fats. They ONLY had to notify consumers that their product contained trans fat if it was greater than half a gram per serving. If something says zero trans fat, it can still have lots of trans fats.

Take, for example, whipped topping like Cool Whip. The label says zero trans fat, but if you look closer, you’ll see it says water and partially hydrogenated fat and high fructose corn syrup. Well, partially hydrogenated fat is trans fat. But because the law states that you can say zero trans fat on the label if there is less than half a gram per serving, they can put zero trans fats. Since most people don’t know that hydrogenated fat and trans fat are the same thing, food makers have been able to hide the trans fat content in plain sight using this little trick.

Finally, the FDA has officially declared trans fats to be unsafe and has banned their use. And you know that when the FDA stands up to the powerful the food industry lobby, it’s got to be bad.

So, you really don’t want to eat anything made with trans or hydrogenated fats. The purpose of trans fat is to prolong the shelf life of the food. It never goes rancid. You can make pie crust out of shortening even if it has been sitting in the cupboard for 30 years. You know why they call it shortening? It shortens your life. Flies won’t even land on it if you leave it out on the counter!

It is hidden in almost all convenience food and fried foods:

  • microwave popcorn
  • cupcakes
  • cookies
  • donuts
  • many fried foods
  • pizza
  • baked foods
  • frozen foods

And don’t just look at the trans fat content of the food; look on the label for the word hydrogenated, and make sure it doesn’t have that on it. This one simple thing will improve your diet and upgrade the quality of the food you eat. You’ll feel better and you’ll be healthier for it.

So, now I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about the FDA’s trans fat ban. Have you eliminated foods made with trans or hydrogenated fats? Has this improved your health? Let me know. And if you’d like to receive this newsletter each week, sign up on my website. Share it with your friends and family on Twitter and Facebook and send me your questions, so that, next week, I may make a House Call to you.

Dr. Hyman is dedicated to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness through a groundbreaking whole-systems medicine approach called Functional Medicine. He is a family physician, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in his field.

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  • Trans-fats are man made and are not found in natural food. The process involves controlling temperature, and pressure and bubbling hydrogen through a cheap oil and a chemical reaction occurs producing a solid fat from the oil.

  • But not in Australia, I'll bet - I believe trans-fats are made when oils are heated to high temperatures as in deep-fried foods.

    • "Not in Australia"? as in not made illegal in Australia yet?

      If you can find out anything about the situation with trans fats in Australia it would be appreciated Elaine.

      • Yes, that's what I meant ;-) I've not heard that trans-fats are illegal. It's not an interest with which I have current info. Are they going to shut down all the chippies in America? I'll bet not nor forbid all the chefs to use smoking-hot oil. As I understand it, that's the other way in which normal harmless oils become trans-fats. 'Fat' and 'oil' are the same substances, 'fat' is solid at room temperature where 'oil' is liquid.

        If someone has some indepth knowledge of what the situation is here in Australia, I am most interested to know what it is.

        • I would love a dietitian to comment.

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