If you have made it this far, you are either very dedicated to learning, dedicated to becoming healthier, or you are as fascinated as we are with learning the TRUTH about fats. Whatever the case, we are glad you are still here.
If there was a fat that had horns and carried a pitchfork, it would be trans-fats; they are the ugliest, most damaging of them all.
WARNING: here comes that sneaky chemistry again.
The fats we have learned about thus far are considered “Cis” fats. Cis means “on the same side.” You can see in this borrowed image that the circled cis bond has the hydrogen electrons ON THE SAME SIDE of the double bonded carbon atoms. (Image source: Everything About Fats)
Conversely, the trans-fat molecule has the hydrogen atoms on opposite sides of the double bonded carbon atoms. “Trans” means “across” or “on the other side.”
Well, how could they get this way?
They are made through a process called “hydrogenation,” and they are called “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils. Believe it or not, this is done intentionally by manufacturers.
Do you recall how unstable polyunsaturated fats are from our previous post? Well, this process of hydrogenation makes the oil into a fat that is solid or semisolid at room temperature.
The hydrogenation process looks like this:
- Manufacturers begin with the cheapest polyunsaturated oils – like soy, corn, cottonseed, and canola, which we know are already rancid and chemically altered – and they proceed to mix the rancid oils with tiny metal particles of nickel oxide.
- The oil-nickel mixture then enters a high-pressure, high-temperature reactor and is subjected to hydrogen gas. (hydrogenation!)
- Then emulsifiers (soapy substances) and starch are added into the mixture to give it a better consistency.
- The oil then gets steam cleaned at high temperatures to remove its unpleasant odor. Not only does it stink, it is also a very unappetizing gray color, so then, it needs to be bleached.
- Next, artificial flavors and dyes are added to the oils to make it look and taste like butter or shortening.
- Finally, the mixture is compressed and packaged in cans, block, or tubs, and sold as butter substitutes or shortenings.
If you have ever used Crisco or margarine, you know that they are solid like saturated fats. This had many fooled into thinking they were an equal or better substitute. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Trans-fats are also unstable and can become free radicals easily.
Also, when you consider butter, coconut oil, or another saturated fat, you realize that at about 78 degrees Fahrenheit, it will become liquid again. Trans-fats do not. They need a much higher temperature to break down; they can remain solid inside our bodies and can build up and clog arteries when neither heat nor our body’s enzymes are not able to break them down. They make our cells stiff and hard, which cis-fats add to the beneficial suppleness and pliability of our cells.
Trans-fats also interfere with vital bodily processes and promote inflammation.
Here is a way to visualize things: picture a key. Our cell membranes are the lock that looks for a specific key formation: the “cis” formation with the hydrogen atoms on the same side of the double bond. The “trans” formation does not fit that, therefore, like a key, you can put the key into the lock, and sometimes even turn it a little, but when forced, it can break off inside the lock. Dee says they are like a wolf in sheep’s clothing – they look the same, so they are accepted into the lock (cell), but they are very different and harmful. When the key breaks off inside the lock, it prevents the lock from being able to take the right key!
This is what trans-fats do to our cells. They get clogged and jammed up and make them unable to receive the right fats. They are detrimental to our cells. This is why trans-fats increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol in our bloodstreams.
The blockage of cell receptor sites (wrong key broken off in the lock) leads to many problems like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, infertility, diverticulitis, obesity, diabetes, and more.
It is apparent that we need to completely eliminate trans-fats from our diet. The National Academy of Sciences has declared that there is no safe level of trans-fats in the diet.
There are, however, sneaky ways that manufacturers can label products to sneak trans-fats into our products. More on that in the next post.