Trans Trouble Part 2: The Other H Words
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Trans Trouble Part 2: The Other H Words


Last Wednesday, I wrote about trans fat.

Well, today, the saga continues! I mentioned that a product can claim to provide zero grams of trans fat if it contains less than 0.5 grams per serving (to identify this “hidden” trans fat, check the ingredient list for the words partially hydrogenated). And, a product can also be labeled trans free if it’s made with FULLY hydrogenated instead of partially hydrogenated oil. Technically, fully hydrogenated oils are trans free. But, they’re not risk free.

A Brandeis University study released last week found that eating products made with interesterified oil (a.k.a. fully hydrogenated oil, a trans-free alternative to partially hydrogenated oil) may lower HDL, the good cholesterol and cause a significant rise in blood sugar (about 20%). At least that’s what the 30 healthy subjects the researchers studied experienced - in just 4 weeks time!!!

That’s a real double whammy health wise. Having a high HDL reduces heart risk because HDL transports cholesterol away from arteries, helping to clear it from the body (so, anything that lowers HDL ups risk). And, having a high blood sugar carries many risks. It thickens the blood, stresses the heart, strains the kidneys, and interferes with the delivery of oxygen and nutrients within the body, especially to the extremities.

Yikes! Not good. Well, you know what they say, there’s no such thing as a “free” lunch! Seriously though - the best way to avoid both partially and fully hydrogenated oils is to eat as many unprocessed or minimally processed foods as possible. For example, choosing liquid oil vs. margarine, and nuts and fruit as a snack instead of something that comes in a bag or box. And, if you do eat a processed food, check both the Nutrition Facts and the ingredients.

photo courtesy of National Cancer Institute
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MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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