Trans Fatty Acids – A Potential Health Danger

Trans fatty acids (trans FA) used in the production of food have both advantages and disadvantages. However, these advantages only concern the food industry, since trans FA increase the date of expiry of different foods. On the other hand, the disadvantages are serious for the consumer: trans FA contribute to deposits in blood vessels, provoking serious diseases like coronary artery disease or stroke. Furthermore, there are ongoing discussions about possible connections between the consumption of trans FA and the development of diabetes and certain types of cancer. Because of the potential health risks, the USA decided to ban all foods produced in the USA that include trans FA until 2018.

Trans FA are particularly included in foods that contain hardened fats, like biscuits, cakes, chips, pastries, fats used for frying, and in general: fast food. Furthermore, trans FA are generated through the heating of plant oils with a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Cold pressed plant oils should not be heated at all – with the exception of mildly heated olive and rapeseed oil. As a general rule, in case plant oils are used for frying, the smoke point (the lowest temperature of a particular oil generates smoke) has to be taken into consideration. Plant oils with a comparably high smoke point are sun flower oil, coconut oil, soy oil, peanut oil and others (thus, these should preferably used for frying).

How can one restrict his/her intake of trans FA? Limitation of the consumption of certain foods seems to be critical. Puff pastry, biscuits and the beforehand mentioned foods should not be regularly ingested. On the other hand, frying should only be performed either with low temperatures or oils that include a low amount of poly-unsatturated fatty acids.

by MMag. Dr. Altenberger Tibor

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