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Trans fat is the dreaded word that makes everyone cringe. You’re told to avoid it at all costs if you value your health, but you might not know why. Artificial trans fat is a product of hydrogenation that can clog your arteries and put your heart health at risk. You find it in processed foods, with fried foods being the worst offenders. Once you know how trans fats negatively impact your health, you can make better choices when it comes to fat consumption.
One of the unhealthiest aspects of trans fat is that it contributes to cardiovascular disease. Trans fatty acids raise the level of bad cholesterol in your blood while at the same time lowering good cholesterol levels. Low-density lipoprotein is considered bad cholesterol because instead of removing cholesterol from your blood, it acts as a vehicle, transporting it to all of your tissues and organs. As it builds up in your blood, it sticks to your artery walls, which is a recipe for a heart attack or stroke.
Insulin is a crucial hormone that keeps your blood sugar levels in check. Although your body relies on glucose for fuel, high blood levels adversely affect your health. After studying the effects of trans fats on lab monkeys, researchers at Wake Forest University concluded that they impair glucose metabolism, causing insulin resistance. When your body becomes resistant to insulin, blood levels remain high, damaging the body. This is often a precursor to diabetes. Results were published in the July 2007 issue of the journal “Obesity.”
Trans fats have long been associated with an independent risk factor for weight gain and obesity. It appears that they can also negatively influence body-fat distribution. The Wake Forest University study noted that trans fat enhanced fat distribution to the stomach area, causing abdominal obesity. This is significant because belly fat on its own is a risk factor for heart disease. So if you’re aiming for a flat tummy and a healthy heart, avoid trans fat.
Not all trans fat is an unhealthy by-product of hydrogenation. Grass-fed animals produce trans fat naturally as a result of bacteria in their gut digesting the grass for them. This source of trans fat, found in beef and dairy, is completely different from artificial trans fat and potentially beneficial. Researchers found that conjugated linoleic acid — a natural trans fat — reduces body fat, according to study results published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”
Article reviewed by Leon Teeboom Last updated on: Nov 2, 2012