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The Surprising Truth About Trans Fats You Haven’t Heard

Image source: thedish.restaurant.com

Image source: thedish.restaurant.com

It seems like one minute we hear that trans-fats are unhealthy, and then the next minute we hear that trans-fats promote weight loss or prevent cancer. I decided to investigate the facts.

First, not all trans-fats are the same. Some are healthy, and some are unhealthy. Meat and dairy products from animals that are classified as ruminants contain small amounts of healthy trans-fats. Ruminants are cows, goats and other grazing animals. The trans-fats are made while their stomachs digest grass and other plants that they consume out in fields. Meat and dairy products from animals that are grain fed, such as commercially raised cows, have much lower levels of healthy conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than grass fed animals that feed on the range.  Sunflower and safflower oil are good vegetarian sources of CLA.

What Types Of Trans Fats Are Unhealthy?

Trans-fats that are made by adding hydrogen to oils are unhealthy. These include shortening, margarine and the fats used in the preparation of most packaged foods. These types of trans-fats are linked with weight gain, pregnancy problems, diabetes and heart disease. Many governments across the globe ban them or restrict their use. Simply put, do not eat them.

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Yes, although CLA, the healthy trans-fat, is available as a supplement. Controversy exists over whether the supplement forms are as healthy as naturally occurring CLA. I recommend using sunflower or safflower oil as dietary oils in order to consume some CLA. You may also obtain CLA by eating sunflower seeds.

What Are The Beneficial Effects Of CLA?

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Some experts recommend the use of CLA as a weight loss aid, however much of the research does not support this claim. What CLA does do is help to reduce a person’s percentage of body fat. Like most fats, it may also reduce feelings of hunger. CLA can increase the proportion of a person’s muscle mass in relationship to fat. Some people report that their physique improves when they consume CLA.

CLA is an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect the health of the entire body. CLA may help to prevent certain types of cancer. Studies indicate that women who consume CLA have a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer when compared with other women. It also may protect against breast cancer.

CLA is not recommended for improving cholesterol levels, as it reduces the amounts of healthy as well as unhealthy cholesterol. More research is needed. Studies are being conducted to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of CLA as well as its impacts on a wide range of conditions.

Most experts who recommend the use of CLA state that we should consume 1 to 3.4 grams of supplemental CLA daily. This amount is much higher than an average person would consume on a daily basis through meals.

Are There Any Side Effects Of A CLA Supplement?

You should consult with your health care provider before using a CLA supplement. Some people report that they experience gastro-intestinal disturbances and discomfort when they take the supplement. I believe that those complaints may be reduced if the supplements are taken with food.

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If you have diabetes, consult your doctor before taking CLA. Some studies indicate that CLA may increase insulin resistance, while others do not. I believe that more information is needed.

Children, adolescents, pregnant or nursing women should not take CLA supplements. Consuming foods that naturally contain CLA is fine. Some experts believe that CLA supplementation should be avoided if liver disease is present. There have been reports that indicate that CLA supplements interact negatively with medications used to treat schizophrenia.

CLA: The Bottom Line

I have heard many people speak of the amazing benefits of CLA. It is popular among athletes and bodybuilders. If you have questions about current research or about how CLA may benefit you, check with your health care provider. I do not feel comfortable recommending CLA supplements without more extensive research.

While CLA supplements may offer certain benefits, such as enhancing the ratio of muscle to fat in a person’s body, I recommend the old adage: Move more, eat less. That is the tried and true way to achieve a healthy weight.

What do you believe about trans fats? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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References:

The Trans-Fat Ban — Food Regulation and Long-Term Health. N Engl J Med 2014; 370:1773-1775 May 8, 2014 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1314072

Keifer, D. (CLA) Conjugated Linoleic Acid. Reviewed 12/14.http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/conjugated-linoleic-acid-cla

Research advancements in palm oil nutrition. Eur J Lipid Sci Technol. 2014 Oct; 116(10):1301-1315. Epub 2014 Oct 6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25821404

Type of fatty acids in maternal diets during pregnancy and/or lactation and metabolic consequences of the offspring. J Nutr Biochem. 2015 Feb;26(2):99-111. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.10.001. Epub 2014 Oct 12.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25459884

Circulating and Dietary Trans Fatty Acids and Incident Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study. Diabetes Care. 2015 Mar 17. pii: dc142101. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25784660

Effects of Dietary Fat Intake on HDL Metabolism. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, 7(3), 145–149. doi:10.14740/jocmr2030w. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4285059/

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One comment

  1. Good article, but readers beware: the vast majority of “data” in nutrition studies are bogus and not much more than anecdotal, therefore any conclusions drawn are of dubious value. Your health is determined much more by your genes than by your diet. Best advice is to eat moderate amounts of a well balanced diet and you don’t need “supplements.” There is no such thing as a “good diet” but only “bad diets” and “adequate diets.” The bad ones are top heavy in carbs and light on meat.

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