Both trans-fat and saturated fat occur naturally. Only small amounts of natural trans fats exist in the meat and dairy products of cows and other ruminant animals. The trans fats that are the troublemakers are man-made and come from hydrogenating oils. Saturated fat is natural. It’s solid at room temperature. The biggest difference between saturated fat and trans fats is that your body needs saturated fat, but man-made trans fats can harm it.
The trans-fat in most people’s diet isn’t natural, but man-made.
A German Chemist named Wilhelm Normann treated liquid vegetable oil and fish oils with hydrogen. In 1911 Proctor & Gamble hydrogenated cottonseed oil and Crisco entered the market. It wasn’t until the Depression and WWII that the shortage of butter increased the demand for hydrogenated oil, such as margarine. It had a longer shelf life, was cheaper, and was easier to access so the public loved it. It took over 100 years for the FDA to ban trans fats, but they did it in 2018.
Just because it’s banned, it doesn’t mean it still isn’t in food.
You would think a ban would mean that it couldn’t be in food, but that’s not true. It’s the processing method that creates that issue. It’s hard to tell when you read the label. The FDA allows manufacturers to list the trans fats in food as 0 on the label if it has less than 0 grams per serving. If the serving size is smaller than you consume, you could be eating more than you think. Eating food from other countries, where trans fats aren’t banned, is also a problem. Trans fats are in many snack foods and fast foods. Heating oil at high temperatures naturally creates trans fats, so foods fried in oil repeatedly heated probably are high in trans fats.
We know that trans fats are bad, but why are saturated fats bad?
While there are few studies on the effects of natural trans fats on the body, the evidence is pretty solid that man-made trans fats are unhealthy and have no redeeming qualities. It’s different when you’re speaking of saturated fats. Recent studies show that decreasing saturated fat showed no health benefits. Your body needs saturated fat to build cell membranes. Some saturated fats boost the immune system and aid in fighting tumors. Others help reduce body fat and aid in fat-soluble vitamin absorption.
- Fat can aid in burning body fat. Your body needs fat. It’s all about the amount and type of fat. Between 20 and 35% of your calories should come from fat. 10% should come from saturated fat and 0% from trans fats.
- If you’re trying to lower your intake of saturated fats, don’t choose fat-free options. Choose monounsaturated or polyunsaturated as a substitute.
- Trans fats cause inflammation, which can lead to diabetes, some forms of cancer, arthritis, and heart disease. While butter contains natural trans fats and margarine contains artificially created trans fats, only margarine increases inflammatory markers.
- The food source of saturated fat makes a difference. Saturated fat from red meat and butter increased the risk of heart disease, while saturated fat from yogurt or cheese reduced the risk.
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