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Old 09-09-2008, 10:33 PM   #1
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Default Trans Fats: Victims of Bad Publicity?

When was the first time you heard of trans fats?

If you're a biochemist, perhaps you've been familiar with at least the minor structural difference that distinguishes these from the rest for quite some time. But the first I heard the term was about four years ago, when I heard that the United States Food and Drug Administration was going to require all food labels to list how much trans fat was in, well, everything.

And then the next moment, entire cities were on crusades to eliminate all trans fats from their borders. It was simple: trans fats were the reason so many people in the world were obese! Once again, science had come through for the good of humanity, and answered an age-old question, and now people wouldn't have to be fat any longer.

Surely I am not the first person to have wondered this. 'Curious,' thought I, 'Now, if trans fats cause weight gain, should someone with my predisposition to enjoy weight gain seek out trans fats?' I decided not to do this sort of tampering with forces beyond my realm of knowledge, perhaps intimidated by all the 'trans fat = death' propaganda surrounding me. The truth of the matter is that there is no proven link between trans fats and weight gain, but something leaked into the media and stuck in the minds of the anti-fat masses.

To be sure, there are studies which show trans fats as having adverse effects on health, mainly in the form of heart disease. But I have to wonder if these studies are being selected and publicized for telling the people what they want to hear. Science is funded by business - look at all the studies and conflicting evidence you can find on sucralose, the artificial sweetener in Splenda. Are the potentially harmful (or not) effects of an artificial sweetener part of a great mystery which has plagued scientific minds for centuries? No - what you see is a mud-slinging campaign of scientific studies hired alternately by the sugar industry and the sweetener industry to release a report from their point of view, so that the newspapers can tell you what to put in your coffee.

And so it may have begun with trans fats. Maybe someone really hated Crisco. And maybe they were on to something, and there is some risk of coronary failure with every generic store brand cookie you ingest. But the dramatic publicity the matter has received is only because it gives people an easy answer to a difficult question. When a person dissatisfied with their weight asks, 'Why am I fat?', hearing that the answer is a complex matter with many facets is just as well as hearing that there is no answer at all. Trans fats were just an easy target, and I suspect public interest will vanish as soon as national obesity and heart disease rates fail to go down in the next five to ten years.

Are trans fats bad? I can't answer that. They haven't killed me yet. They occur naturally in small amounts. They have been produced commercially in massive quantities for nearly a century and still people are living longer than ever. They're probably not great for you, but even apples contain formaldehyde.

'For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.'
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Old 09-09-2008, 10:47 PM   #2
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From everything that I have heard and read about them, yes, they are actually quite bad for you. If you want to play Russia Roulette with this sort of thing, its your life I suppose.
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Old 09-10-2008, 07:45 AM   #3
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Omnivore's Dilemma seemed like a pretty honest book to me, and it spoke about how trans fats are just something that should not exist on Odin's green earth. They're something that was designed by mad scientists with hunchbacked assistants which our body really lacks the chemical equipment to deal with.
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Old 09-10-2008, 08:24 AM   #4
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I can't help but think of Divine or, more recently, John Travolta when I hear the words "Trans Fat"
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Old 09-10-2008, 08:27 AM   #5
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Are you gonna start posting those "Sweet Surprise" commercials next?


Naturally occuring fat is fine and healthy and your body needs it. Anything thats 'created' in a lab...not going into my body. At least not on a regular basis.
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Old 09-10-2008, 09:03 AM   #6
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Knottyknicky: So you don't take penicillin when you're sick? =p
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Old 09-10-2008, 10:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuzzy Necromancer View Post
Omnivore's Dilemma seemed like a pretty honest book to me, and it spoke about how trans fats are just something that should not exist on Odin's green earth. They're something that was designed by mad scientists with hunchbacked assistants which our body really lacks the chemical equipment to deal with.
That is simply not true - they do exist naturally in small amounts, and have been consumed by humans for eons via meats. The human body may not be properly equipped to digest them, but neither can we digest cellulose in vegetables. Do we stop eating vegetables?

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From everything that I have heard and read about them, yes, they are actually quite bad for you. If you want to play Russia Roulette with this sort of thing, its your life I suppose.
My entire point, regardless of what specific case it's being applied to, is that we should all be questioning what we hear and read from sources that supposedly have some sort of authority. We are all quick to question anything that comes from the mouth of a politician, but if it's published by a scientific journal, somehow it's immune to criticism. This becomes dangerous in an age when science is so closely tied to the economy.
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Old 09-10-2008, 02:48 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Fuzzy Necromancer View Post
Knottyknicky: So you don't take penicillin when you're sick? =p


Notice I said "At least not on a regular basis"...


Penicillin comes from a naturally occuring fungus. That said, I don't often take antibiotics anyways, I drink tea, eat healthy, and let my body build its own antibodies to my illnesses. I don't have an issue with labs, I have an issue with additives in food that make them unneccessarily unhealthy. I can't imagine a serious comparison of Penicillin to hydrogenated fats that are completely lab-created as an additive to processed food
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Old 09-10-2008, 02:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Happenstance View Post
That is simply not true - they do exist naturally in small amounts, and have been consumed by humans for eons via meats. The human body may not be properly equipped to digest them, but neither can we digest cellulose in vegetables. Do we stop eating vegetables?
I think the difference is that naturally occuring trans fats occur in meats in trace amounts. The same cannot be said for foods containing added trans fats.
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Old 09-12-2008, 11:20 AM   #10
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Trans fat does occur naturally in some meat and dairy products and not in trace amounts either. But the trans fat found in meat and dairy products is vaccenic acid and not elaidic acid. Elaidic acid is a trans fat that's converted from oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, like olive oil. Elaidic acid is the main type of trans fat found in hydrogenated vegetable oils. Vaccenic acid, on the other hand, comes from polyunsaturated fats found in the cow's diet. The bacteria residing in compartments of the cow's stomach actually hydrogenate and convert the polyunsaturated fats into saturated and transfat.

And the good thing about vaccenic acid is that humans do a pretty good job converting it into CLA, the healthy fats found in butter.

And the study citing our effectivness at converting vaccenic acid to CLA can be found here

Turpeinen, A.M., et al., Bioconversion of vaccenic acid to conjugated linoleic acid in humans. Am J Clin Nutr, 2002. 76(3): p. 504-510.

So, long story short. The naturally occurring trans fats are not bad for you in normal doses and may even be beneficial.

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Old 09-13-2008, 05:12 PM   #11
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All I'm saying is, that based on the available evidence, I have made my own decision to try and reduce the amount of trans-fats I consume. If I thought the information was false or untrue, then I would have no hesitation of ignoring it. However, at the end of the day, when stumps are called, I chose to believe it, through my personal reasoning.
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Old 02-18-2017, 08:30 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Happenstance View Post
That is simply not true - they do exist naturally in small amounts, and have been consumed by humans for eons via meats.
Many naturally-occurring foods contain small amounts of things which, in larger doses, are extremely poisonous, much more so than trans fats. For instance, almonds; one of the healthiest nuts in the world, contains small amounts of cyanide. Don't eat 10 lbs of almonds in one sitting, or you will die of cyanide poisoning.

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Originally Posted by Happenstance View Post
The human body may not be properly equipped to digest them, but neither can we digest cellulose in vegetables. Do we stop eating vegetables?
We also don't really "digest" fiber. That's left up to the friendly gut bacteria, but nonetheless, fiber is essential in our diet.

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My entire point, regardless of what specific case it's being applied to, is that we should all be questioning what we hear and read from sources that supposedly have some sort of authority.
In no case is that more true than with nutrition, which is an area where proving a claim is almost impossible, and so it's filled with snake oil salesmen, trying to convince you that only their idea can solve your obvious problem for 19.95 plus tax and shipping.

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This becomes dangerous in an age when science is so closely tied to the economy.
It's too bad that none of us have the money or time to do all our own science. At least I know I don't. As far as questioning things you hear, though, you bet. That's why you look for corroborative evidence for everything.
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Old 02-21-2017, 05:03 AM   #13
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I'm a trans fat. We aren't all that bad
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Old 02-21-2017, 08:33 AM   #14
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Here is an idea don't put lab additives in food.

Thats right Leishycat.
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