Trans fats have been linked to coronary heart disease through the same mechanism as saturated fats. Both increase the level of low density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly known as bad cholesterol; both lower the level of high density lipoprotein (HDL), the good cholesterol.
A hidden danger lurks in nearly every cookie, fry, potato chips, cracker, cake and salad dressing. Foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils listed under their ingredients are hazardous due to the presence of trans fats. Vegetable oils include soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, peanut oil and sunflower seed oil.
Hydrogenation is responsible for the creation of trans fatty acids. Hydrogenated fats take a longer time to go rancid due to their stability; to increase shelf life and preserve flavor, processed foods tend to contain hydrogenated fats. The food industry creates trans fats in order that regular products that are naturally greasy and oily will not appear to be that way when bought by the consumer.
Furthermore, restaurants thrive on the production of trans fats in order to better advertise their food selection. For example, most appetizers in a restaurant such as Ruby Tuesdays will have anywhere between 11 to 25 grams of calories from fat content.
According to USA Today, hydrogenation involves bubbling hydrogen gas through vegetable oil in the presence of a metal catalyst. When completely finished, hydrogenation converts unsaturated fats to saturated fats through a chemical reaction that adds hydrogen atoms. If only partially completed, though, hydrogenation can create trans double bonds between carbon atoms.
A review by the Harvard School of Public Health notes that trans fats have twice the undesirable effects of saturated fats; trans fatty acids, according to the school, cause between 30,000 and 100,000 premature deaths a year from coronary heart disease.
Not all trans fats come from partially hydrogenated oils. For the most part, however, seafood when cooked in restaurants has the highest trans fat content than any other type of meat or poultry.
The Food and Drug Administration has introduced a new regulation compelling food companies to list trans fats on the Nutrition Facts label. This rule has been controversial because manufacturers had been advertising products with trans fats as fat free, or reducing the amount of saturated fats with the usage trans fats, to seem healthier to consumers.
All labels must carry the trans fat information by 2006. The FDA believes that the new labeling requirement will prevent between 250 and 500 deaths a year.
Trans fats haven't been replaceable due to their low expense and aesthetic outcomes. An example of food alteration, trans fats are an example of bioengineering gone wrong.
Biotechnology companies are developing new vegetable oils to reduce the need to hydrogenate. Genetically engineering soybeans or sunflowers might have low levels of saturated fats and linolenic acid, which allows companies to stop hydrogenating oils for their stability.