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New study shows...

Trans fats cause extra weight gain

by Susan Stevensen, M.Ed., LDN
Licensed Dietitian

Here is something I like about New York City! Their Board of Health has worked to outlaw trans fats from all of the restaurants in New York. Here is some information on why we should all applaud their efforts.

A recent study has shown that even if you eat the same amount of calories, you will gain more weight if the food you eat has trans fats, compared to a diet with equal calories and the same amount of fats, but no trans fats.

These are the results of a study by Dr. Kylie Kavanaugh, which was presented to a scientific session of the American Diabetes Association in June 2006.

Animals fed trans fats also had more fat deposited in the abdominal area around the stomach than in animals fed no trans fats. The amount of fat in these diets was similar to the amount of fat that humans eat.

The animals on the trans fat diet not only gained 30 per cent more fat in their abdomen, they also gained 5.4 per cent more total weight.

For Americans who are fighting a battle with weight gain, this extra amount of weight gain is very significant. In a person who weighs 180 pounds, for example, an extra 5.4 per cent would be around 10 pounds.

Just what is trans fat, and why does it cause these problems?

Trans fat is a chemically altered fat that is used by the commercial food industry because it has a longer shelf life. It is a saturated fat that has been proven to cause heart disease, and has also been linked to higher rates of breast cancer.

Because of the way it has been artificially “hydrogenated”, this type of fat is found in very limited amounts in nature, which means our bodies do not know how to handle it well. Fat is an important part of the cellular walls of every cell in your body, normally in a liquid form of fat. You literally “are what you eat,” so when you eat trans fats frequently, you must expect every cell in your body to become transformed into a “harder,” stiffer, unnatural fat.

Trans fat apparently causes our bodies to deposit more (unnatural) fat, to gain more weight, to make more cholesterol, and to cause more health problems. I would not be surprised if future research shows that trans fats are also one of the underlying causes of arthritis, other forms of cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Just how much trans fat are we getting?
Just one three-piece meal of extra crispy fried chicken can provide 15 grams of trans fat. We should be eating none, and we should also limit our intake of saturated fat.

So, what should a sane person do?

  • Do eat larger amounts of fruits and vegetables, more frequent meals at home instead of fast foods, and choose more salads, broiled foods, and baked potatoes when you eat out at restaurants.
  • Do Not eat biscuits, pie crusts, pot pies, baked goods (cakes and cookies), fast food fries, or any fried foods, unless you make them yourself with liquid vegetable oil.
  • Do Not eat anything made with shortening or other solid, man-made fats, such as stick margarine.
  • Limit use of “light” margarine or “light” butter to small quantities of the lower fat, soft, tub types. Better yet, cook or season lightly with olive oil.
  • Learn more about how trans fats and saturated fats harm your body.
As they have found in New York City, you can ask your favorite restaurants to cook without trans fats, but most restaurants will not do so voluntarily.

A note from the editor:

Good Food, Good Friends, and Good Life.