Trans Fats

Trans fats can raise cholesterol and increase chances of health issues
Trans fats can raise cholesterol and increase chances of health issues

Trans fats, a form of processed (hydrogenated) cooking oil, have been identified as one of the most dangerous food additives.

They help to prolong shelf life and are found in foods such as doughnuts, fast food and even bread.

The UK Government has urged food companies to cut down on the levels of trans fats in products but an outright ban has yet to be enforced.

What are trans fats?

Trans fats are made by a process of using heat and pressure to add hydrogen molecules to vegetable oils. This changes the chemical property of the oils allowing them to solidify at room temperature allowing for longer shelf life and stabilising the flavour of the foods they’re added to.

Trans fats are often to be found listed amongst the emulsifiers in food.

Emulsifiers help foods to stay together and prevent some of the constituent ingredients from separating out from each other.

Trans fats are also known as ‘partially hydrogenated oils/fats’ or ‘shortening’.

Dangers of trans fats

Trans fats are known to raise cholesterol and therefore increase the chances of:

  • Developing heart disease
  • Strokes
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Alzheimers

Trans fats have also been shown to be linked with infertility in women.

Trans fatty acids not only raise the bad LDL cholesterol, they also reduce the healthy HDL cholesterol.

Research has also showed a possible link between trans fats and reduced insulin sensitivity. It is widely agreed that trans fats are significantly more damaging than saturated fats (animal fats).

Which foods contain trans fats?

Foods which may contain trans fats are typically sweet, carbohydrate based foods or those with relatively short shelf lives.

Trans fats have typically been present in the following foods:

  • Margarines
  • Vegetable oils
  • Cakes
  • Doughnuts
  • Pastries
  • Ice cream
  • Bread
  • Fast food

How can I tell which foods have trans fats?

Reading the ingredients list on food produce may help to identify foods which contain trans fats.

However, whilst UK food producers have agreed to cut trans fats out of their ingredients, it is thought that a number of foods still contain them, listed as ‘mono and diglycerides of fatty acids’, which can be found in many products including doughnuts, pastries, ice cream and bread.

Trans fats in restaurants

Unpackaged foods do not, by law, need to list their ingredients.

As a result, it is very difficult to know how much trans fat may be present.

Fast food chains have been notorious for their use of trans fats.

Many of these have agreed to reduce the amount of trans fats but few of the leading chains have completely cut out the use of partially hydrogenated oils.

A ban on trans fats

There have been a number of calls for trans fats to be banned in the UK. Bans on trans fats currently exist in Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and certain US states, including New York and California.

However, a UK ban has not been met Government support, which has preferred to allow food companies to reduce the trans fat content of their foods on a voluntary basis.

Your Comments
Hi, I hope they do ban it all, will be better for us and everyone else.
Posted by andy pandy, gala scotland on Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Hi there, hope the ban goes ahead if it's bad for health.
Posted by Ahmed, West Yorks on Saturday, April 09, 2011
I think there should be a very strong call to the government for a total ban of the use of trans fats by all Health Organisations such as Diabetes UK, British Heart and Stroke Foundation etc and their supporters, this would surely save the Government millions on NHS fees.
Posted by HpprKM on Saturday, April 09, 2011
As usual the UK governments is in someone's pocket!
Posted by john, Abertawe on Thursday, April 07, 2011
How come Britain is always so slow in implementing sanctions such as these when other countries can do it at the drop of a hat. It always takes ages & ages here.
Posted by Morag Walker, Dundee, Scotland on Thursday, April 07, 2011
Our governments have always been slow when it came to banning food additives that are bad for health. Another example is Aspartame sweetening agent, which has not been banned, despite a number of reports which state it can cause, amongst other things, depression in some people. This has been known for a number of years.
Posted by Dennis Marmion, Perth, Scotland on Thursday, April 07, 2011
Something else to worry about trans fats, why are these being used? Like cigarrettes they should carry a clear warning on foods bought.
Posted by raymond slater, Telford on Thursday, April 07, 2011
I think it is totally unacceptable that any ingredient added to foods, that are consequently discovered to be harmful in any way, should not be clearly labelled on the packaging. Too often the ingredients are labelled in typeface so small that I cannot even read them with glasses on! Transfats in particular should definitely be banned in the UK.
Posted by Colin Brett, Raunds - Northamptonshire on Thursday, April 07, 2011
Trans fats are actually omega-6 trans fats. Excessive omega-6 intake, whether trans or cis, is associated with inflammation. Google "Your Brain on Omega 3" to read an excellent summary article about omega-6s and inflammation.
Posted by David_Brown, United States on Thursday, April 07, 2011
I think it is outrageous that trans fats have yet to be completely banned in the U.K. If other countries such as Denmark, Swizerland, etc. have been able to bring about a ban, what is stopping this country from doing so?
Posted by Hazel Challis, Somerset on Thursday, April 07, 2011
I think UK should make policy to ban trans fat like other countries.
Posted by Abdul Khan, London on Thursday, April 07, 2011
Have Your Say
This is my Diabetes Forum username
Your Comment* (1000 characters max)
Your email address will not be published. Your comments may be moderated. By submitting your comments, you agree to the Diabetes Community Rules.

Join us