By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
Trans fats are getting a lot of press today. There is general agreement that the artificial trans fats made in a lab are very bad for human health. Numerous studies have implicated trans fats as contributing to heart disease and other illnesses. The federal government now requires that the presence of all trans fats be labeled. Unfortunately, the labeling requirement does not distinguish between artificial trans fats made in the lab and trans fats that occur naturally in dairy and meat products. This is a shame, because there is solid scientific evidence that natural trans fats actually reduce the risk of heart disease.
Does Grassfed Meat Contain Trans Fats?
My friend, low-carb advocate Jimmy Moore, made me aware of this issue. One of Jimmy’s readers was going to buy some grassfed meat. The reader looked at the package, and saw that the meat contained trans fats. The reader did not want to be harmed by trans fats, and did not buy the meat. Well, grassfed fat does contain a small amount of trans fats. However, the trans fats that occur naturally in meat and dairy products are very different from the lab-made trans fats that have been implicated in the studies. Here’s the link to Jimmy’s excellent article on the subject.
What Are Trans Fats?
There are two major kinds, which are actually quite different from each other. There is a kind of trans fat which occurs naturally in meat fat and dairy products. People have been eating this kind of fat for many thousands of years. Most of this fat is known as transvaccenic acid.
There are also man-made trans fats, which were invented in the 20th century. These fats are created by adding hydrogen under pressure to a liquid vegetable oil. This process turns the oil solid at room temperature. This kind of man-made fat is most commonly called partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. These lab-made oils greatly increase the shelf life of processed foods. They have also been found to increase the risk of heart disease, obesity, and other illnesses, in many studies.
Federal Labeling Requirements Do Not Distinguish Between Natural and Artificial Trans Fats
The federal government requires that all foods containing a certain amount of trans fats be labeled as containing trans fats. This is very confusing, because the labeling requirements do not distinguish between natural and artificial trans fats. It is actually possible that a product could contain both, such as butter that has had partially hydrogenated vegetable oil added to it. You cannot tell from the label if the trans fats in the product are the natural trans fats or the artificial trans fats. This is very unfortunate, because the difference between the two major kinds of trans fats is crucial.
Natural Trans Fats May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Obesity
Several recent studies done at the University of Alberta in Canada showed that transvaccenic acid substantially reduced risk factors associated with heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The studies involved feeding transvaccenic acid to rats. The studies showed a substantial reduction in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and an even larger reduction in triglyceride levels. It should be noted that transvaccenic acid is 70-80% of the trans fats that naturally occur in meat and dairy products.
This research is completely consistent with the research done by Dr. Weston A. Price in the 1930s. Dr. Price studied a number of peoples eating their traditional diet. Some of these diets included large amounts of animal fat, and/or very large amounts of full fat dairy products. Both the animal fat and dairy products would have contained natural trans fats. The peoples studied by Dr. Price had no heart disease, no diabetes, no tooth decay, no cancer, and were not obese—as long as they ate their traditional diets, which were full of naturally occurring trans fats.
How to Find Natural Trans Fats and Avoid Lab-Made Trans Fats
Since the labels do not tell you if the trans fats are natural or artificial, how can you tell?
- Natural trans fats occur only in meat and dairy products. So if you see trans fats on the label in any non-meat, non-dairy food, you can be reasonably certain that the trans fats are artificial.
- If you see trans fats on the labels of meat or dairy products, you can expect that they contain natural trans fats, but they could also include artificial trans fats that have been added in processing.
- The best way I have found to deal with this problem is to buy only pure, unadulterated products in their most basic form, as unprocessed as possible. I also avoid products that have additives.
- Any product that has the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, almost certainly contains artificial trans fats.
For myself, I have decided to avoid all artificial trans fats to the extent possible. I have also decided to enjoy the benefits of the natural trans fats contained in grassfed meat and real butter.
Here are links regarding the studies done at the University of Alberta:
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday Blog Carnival at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.
Read more at Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.
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