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Your question:
What are trans fatty acids and why are they so bad for us?

The health expert answers:
Partially hydrogenated fats -- trans fats -- are produced by artificially and chemically altering liquid vegetable oils to create a solid fat. The use of hydrogen, metal catalysts and heat creates a partially hydrogenated fat which remains solid at room temperature, for example, margarine and shortening. Transforming this fat by heating destroys the healthy essential fatty acids of the original liquid oil.

Using trans fats lowers cost and extends shelf life of these fats and foods made with them, such as commercially-baked goods, bake mixes, fried foods, fast foods, chips, crackers, candy, cereals, dressings, dips and even some frozen foods. If the ingredients on a food label include partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil, shortening or margarine, the food contains trans fats.

The health concern: Trans fats have been associated with the many metabolic diseases, including coronary heart disease, increased LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol) levels. It's also suspected the play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Increased platelet aggregation, which can lead to strokes, heart attacks and blood clots is also associated with trans fats. There is also evidence they play a role in breast cancer.

The problem with trans fats is our body doesn't know what to do with them. In some respects, trans fats compete with healthy fats in digestion, absorption and metabolism. Unaltered healthy fats are pliable and supple, making them "fluid" in the body. Trans fatty acids are stiff, accumulating in the body to create inflammatory reactions, interfere with immune and enzymatic function and ultimately, interfere with human life.

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