Trans fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that is mainly found in industrialized foods that have been subjected to hydrogenation or baking such as cakes, among others. They are also found naturally in small amounts in the milk and body fat of ruminants.
What are trans fatty acids
Trans fatty acids not only increase the concentration of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in the blood but also decrease the high-density lipoproteins (HDL, responsible for transporting what we call “good cholesterol”), causing a greater risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases.
Formation of trans fatty acids
Since double bonds are rigid structures, the molecules that contain them can come in two forms: cis and trans. In trans isomers, like or identical groups are on the opposite side of a double bond, while in cis, they are on the same side.
Trans fatty acids are formed in the hydrogenation process that is carried out on fats in order to solidify them, to use them in different foods. An example of this is the solidification of liquid vegetable oil for the manufacture of margarine. It also promotes freshness, gives texture and improves stability.
These fatty acids can be particularly dangerous for the heart and are associated with the highest risk of developing some cancers. The most recent studies show that higher concentrations of trans fatty acids can increase the risk of type II diabetes.
Hydrogenated fats are used in fast foods, commercial bakery products, processed and fried foods.
Studies on the health impact of trans fatty acids
Trans fatty acids appear to increase the risk of coronary heart disease more than any other macronutrient, conferring a substantially increased risk at low levels of intake (1 to 3 percent of total energy intake). In a meta-analysis of four studies involving nearly 140,000 subjects, including updated analyzes of the two largest studies, a 2% increase in energy from trans fatty acids was associated with a 23% increase in the incidence of trans-fatty acids. coronary heart disease.
Public regulation of these compounds
On July 25, 2008, California was the first state in the United States to ban trans fatty acids in restaurants. Effective January 1, 2010, California restaurants are prohibited from using oils, butters, and margarines containing "artificial" trans fatty acids for spreads or frying, with the exception of fried donuts. Donuts and other pastries have been banned from containing "artificial" trans fatty acids effective January 1, 2011.
Packaged food, however, is not covered by the ban and continues to be allowed to contain trans fatty acids. Trans-type fatty acids can inhibit some transformations of other essential fatty acids, delaying the growth and maturation of the brain. And is that fats are an essential part of the body's cell membranes, and the presence of trans fats instead of cis can lead the body to build hormones and defective cell membranes.
Likewise, some food chains have decided not to commercialize products that contain trans fatty acids, due to the health problems they can cause.
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