Trans fatty acids, more commonly called trans fats, are made by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas and a catalyst, a process called hydrogenation.
Partially hydrogenated oils can withstand repeated heating without breaking down, making them ideal for frying fast foods. For these reasons, partially hydrogenated oils became a mainstay in restaurants and the food industry – for frying, baked goods, and processed snack foods and margarine.
Partially hydrogenated oil is not the only source of trans fats in our diets. Trans fats are also naturally found in beef fat and dairy fat in small amounts.
Trans fats are the worst type of fat for the heart, blood vessels, and rest of the body because they:
- Raise bad LDL and lower good HDL
- Create inflammation, a reaction related to immunity – which has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions
- Contribute to insulin resistance
- Can have harmful health effects even in small amounts – for each additional 2 percent of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of coronary heart disease increases by 23 percent.