I have always been aware of maintaining a healthy body weight, what foods I eat and making sure I exercise regularly. Don’t get me wrong I like a delicious fillet steak and chips as much as the next person but that does not mean that I am oblivious to the health implications of eating something deep-fried in oil!
With an alarming percentage of women in SA being overweight, obese or inactive we cannot ignore the fact that consumption of unhealthy foods, is not helping the situation. With these factors in mind it is not surprising that Trans-Fats have been banned in South Africa.
What exactly are Trans-Fats?
Trans-fats are formed, when converting liquid plant oils into a semi-solid spread, like margarine, a so-called industrial hydrogenation process whereby the vegetable oil is exposed to high pressure and heat with hydrogen gas bubbling through it, in the presence of a nickel catalyst.
Under these conditions hydrogen atoms open up double bonds converting unsaturated fats, in liquid oils into hardened saturated fats. Unfortunately some (+/- 40%) of the newly created saturated fats are not 100% identical to pre-existing natural saturated fats. This is due to the fact that they have a “kink” caused by the molecule undergoing a structural change from cis-configuration to a trans-configuration at a double bond usually in the middle of the molecule. Chemically trans fats may be identical to certain natural fats but structurally they are different due to a “kink” in the middle of the molecule. You are basically taking something natural and making it unnatural! The double bonds in unsaturated fats make them less stable and more vulnerable to oxidative damage (e.g. they go rancid very quickly)
What are the health risks of eating Trans-fats?
Eating trans-fats provides no known benefit to human health, however there is definitive correlation between a diet that is high in trans-fat content and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels can translate into an increased risk of coronary heart disease, which can be fatal?
Serum trans-fatty acids are associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer and there is also an association between fat stores of trans fatty acids and breast cancer in post-menopausal women.
Other emerging risk factors are coronary artery disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, dyslipidemia and heart failure.
Last and certainly not least, trans fatty acids contribute more to weight gain than monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Where can we find these nasty’s?
Trans fatty acids can be found in items like certain margarines, baking shortening, oil used for deep-frying chips and chicken, confectionary items such as rusks, croissants, pies, crackers, cookies, doughnuts etc.
So how can we avoid these potentially risk causing fats?
Well the only way to avoid these risks would be to avoid eating food containing trans fatty acids, as I said previously it could be difficult to avoid them altogether, it does however require you to make more informed decisions on what food products you buy and or eat.
What does the new legislation in SA say about Trans-fats?
The basic low down on the law, is that food products are only allowed to contain a maximum of 2% of trans fats. Major fast food outlets such as KFC, Steers and Wimpy have already aligned themselves with legislation and changed their fats to be trans-fat free. Other major retails chain are in the process of ensuring that the products they sell fall into line with these new laws.
Ultimately the law can only dictate policy, it is up to us as the consumer to be aware of the products we are buying or consuming and exercise a healthy, wholesome approach to food. Especially when it comes to the health and well-being of our children! 😀
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