Monday, February 14, 2011

Heart Disease and the Trans-Fat Trap

Happy Valentine’s Day!
Valentine's Day is traditionally a day in which people express their love to one another. It can be between spouses, significant others, close friends or family. One thing that is common on this day is candy is a favorite.  American manufacturers crank out $12.2 billion worth of chocolate and cocoa products in a year and $7.1 billion worth of other kinds of candy. That averages out to 188 Snickers bars per person each year!
An obvious question among the health-conscious is whether the sweetie receiving sweets for Valentine's Day feels loved or is left to wonder whether the giver forgot they just saw a news broadcast reminding them that 63 percent of Americans are overweight. So this Valentine’s give the true gift of life by taking care of you and your loved one’s heart!
Since 1900, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States and the annual death total continues to rise. Heart disease is a silent killer; it lies dormant for many years and offers vague and subtle warning signs- if any.  Its host goes about life making poor dietary choices and skipping on the exercise with the hopes they will cheat death or in denial that it “won’t happen to me.”  Unfortunately, heart disease has no conscious and does not discriminate against gender, race, or social status. When heart disease is ready to strike it will change the course of a family’s life in an instant… All too often leaving a family crippled with grief over a loved one taken too soon by a very preventable death.    
Every 20 seconds, a person in the United States has a heart attack which results in in more than 2,500 American deaths daily. Annually, 250,000 Americans lose their life to heart disease before reaching a hospital. Another 6 million Americans are hospitalized each year due to heart disease. Men suffer heart attacks about 10 years earlier in life than women.  Women’s symptoms are more subtle than a man’s and tend to go undiagnosed until it is too late.  
For years, cholesterol has been the escape goat and took the blame for heart disease. Americans were advised to consume little or no cholesterol.  Overnight our grocery stores selves were stocked with “cholesterol free” everything!  However, it is a bet more complicated than blaming it on one nutrient. There are two main causes of heart disease; genetics and lifestyle, or a combination of both.
Genetics play an important role in heart disease, but it is as individualized as the color of your hair or the size of your shoe. Cholesterol is found in everything animal. If it is an animal, comes from an animal, or made with animal byproduct then it contains cholesterol! The amount varies dramatically depending on the food or product. 
Sometimes we as humans tend to forget that we too belong to the animal kingdom.   Every single day the human body makes cholesterol naturally. The liver and other cells in our bodies make about 75 percent of blood cholesterol.  Here is where genetics come into play because not everyone makes the same amount. If you are genetically engineered to make MORE cholesterol than normal you obviously need to “eat” less cholesterol daily. These people should avoid foods higher in cholesterol (i.e. egg yolks, red meat, whole dairy etc.). However, if you are one of the lucky ones who naturally produce less cholesterol daily then you have no need to be afraid of an egg yolk or two.  The complicated part is figuring out if you overproduce or under produce? Take a look at your family tree… if you have a family history of heart attacks, heart disease, or hyperlipidemia (high LDLs) then it is safe to say you should consume foods high in cholesterol with caution. You should also have a lipid profile once a year to be screened for early signs of heart disease or high cholesterol. 
The other 25 percent comes from our diet in the form of saturated fat, trans-fats and dietary cholesterol.  The most come cause of heart disease is lifestyle. This is exciting because it can be controlled and changed to reverse the harmful effects.  Poor diet and lack of exercise is a dangerous cocktail for heart disease. Dietary causes of heart disease are primarily linked to the type of fats we consume.  Not all fats are the devil but I will blog in detail about different fats on a later date but today I want to highlight the most important.  Good heart healthy fats include: monounsaturated fats.  Bad heart clogging fats include: saturated fats and Trans Fats.  
The Trans Fat Trap
If you have not been living under a rock you have heard of trans-fats by now and seen your local grocery store shelves lined with “trans-fat” free foods. Now more than ever you as a consumer need to be educated on how to avoid these DEADLY fats all together. Yes, Deadly!!!!
Research faults trans-fats for at least 30,000 premature deaths a year or 82 every single day!
Decades of research shows consumption of trans-fat alone promotes:
Heart Disease
Immune dysfunction
Reproductive problems

What are trans-fats?  Partial hydrogenation is an industrial process used to make perfectly good oil, such as soybean oil, into perfectly bad oil. The process is used to make oil more solid; provide longer shelf-life in baked products; provide longer fry-life for cooking oils, and provide a certain kind of texture or "mouthfeel." The big problem is that partially hydrogenated oil is laden with lethal trans-fat.
So if it makes food s taste better and cheaper what is the big deal?
Trans-fats increase bad LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin levels and reduce beneficial HDL cholesterol, promoting heart attacks. The special villain is margarine. It accounts for about 20 to 25% of all trans-fat consumed. In fact, trans- fat rich margarine is twice as bad as butter. Butter's saturated fat raises bad LDL, but margarine's trans-fat boost LDL and depresses good HDL cholesterol, doubling the damage.  Substituting very low trans-fat margarine or butter reduces bad LDL cholesterol 11%.  In diabetics, trans-fats appear to reduce the ability of the body to handle blood sugar by lowering responses to the hormone insulin; this is particularly dangerous to diabetics.
There has been enough scientific evidence to persuade New York City and California law makers to ban this deadly food additive. In 2006, three big British supermarket chains banned hydrogenated oils from their own brand products! When will other manufactures and law makers wake up and smell the lethal food additive?
How a little goes a long way:
Just removing trans-fat from all margarine's (70% are high in trans-fats) would prevent 6,300 heart attacks a year.  Eliminating trans-fats in just 3% of breads and cakes and 15% of cookies and crackers would save up to 59-billion dollars in health care costs in the next 20 years, predicts the FDA.
The best diet strategy is consuming ZERO grams of trans-fat daily. It only takes 2-4 grams of trans-fat daily to Increase your chance of having a heart attack by 40-50%! Some Americans eat 30-40 grams of trans-fat Daily! Children who start to consume trans-fat at a young age are being set up for a premature death or struggle with heart disease. No parent should have to watch their 20 or 30 year old struggle with heart disease or die of a heart attack due to the “kid friendly” foods they were fed as a child.
The explosion of the fast food industry happened during the 1950s and 1960s. As the request for fast food increased the food industry looked for more efficient ways to supply product to meet the demand.  Welcome the birth of trans-fats. The problem is most Americans did not start consuming trans-fats until it hit the mainstream in the 1970’s and 80’s. Most adults had a trans-fat free childhood prolonging the bad effects of this deadly food additive until their late 50’s or older. Well now children are getting their first dose of artery clogging venom as early as 2 or 3 years old. The sooner the venom is started the sooner the deadly killer will strike!! Hence the reason people are dropping like flies of heart attacks earlier and earlier in life. It is only going to get worse as we watch how this mass produced poison takes a toll on the next generations.
 As a consumer you can take the responsibility of what you purchase and what you feed your family. Once you know better you can do better… I am fixing to teach you the “know better” part and expect you to take personal responsibility to do the “do better” part.
Where Trans Fats Lurk: - Here's where artificial trans-fats are found, based on FDA data:
51% in baked goods (breads, cakes, cookies, crackers, pies)
22% in margarines
10% in fried potatoes
6% in potato chips, corn chips
5% in shortening
4% in salad dressing
1% in breakfast cereals

How we are tricked by the big Manufactures! Consumers are bold face lied to on a daily bases!
Manufactures can legally place zero trans-fats on their label as long as there is .5 grams of trans-fat or less per serving!!  This means if you eat more than one serving a few times a day of foods labeled trans-fat free you could be getting multiple grams a day and not even knows it! Scary!!
How the consumer can fight back:
Take a look at the ingredient list of all foods before purchasing.
If the words: HYDROGENATED or PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED are anywhere in the ingredient list it has trans-fat!!  Regardless of what the label says. The term "hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated" mean that hydrogen gas has been bubbled up into an oil to increase its degree of saturation and shelf life. The process of hydrogenation causes several chemical changes to occur in the oil. One of these changes (only one, but an important one) is the creation of trans-fat.
This is not a weight issue it is a heart issue and public health issue. This is not a matter of spending more for an item or promoting “organics” (although I am pro organic). For every food you purchase that has hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list there is a product on the same shelf that does not. It takes time to read your labels and become familiar with the products that are safe to eat. It is not always the name brand items that are safe either sometimes generic brand is the better choice. Often different products under the same name brand will vary. Fiber one of instance, some of their bars have hydrogenated oils some don’t.  It is all a matter of turning the label of and reading skimming the ingredient list before putting if your buggy.
Quick tip: Fresh whole foods that don’t have an ingredients list (i.e. fruits, veggies and wholesome grains) 100% trans-fat free J and make shopping a no brainer. Just saying…
So take control of your heart and make your house a trans-fat free zone!

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