Shorter Lives for Longer Shelf-life? Raising the Awareness of the Harms of Trans Fat with Trans Fat Free Philippines

“Are you afraid of fats? If so, you’re not alone. Fat in foods has been vilified in America for the past few decades, as low-fat and nonfat foods became the norm and we were told that cutting even healthy fats out of the diet would help us get the body we want. In fact, it’s one of the biggest nutrition lies that the public’s been told throughout history.”

Dr. Josh Axe, co-founder of Ancient Nutrition

The War on Fat

In his 1956 research called “The Seven Countries Study”, physiologist Dr. Ancel Keys of the University of Minnesota, popularized the idea that saturated fat clogs your arteries. Although recent research has disproved this, the greater medical community still believes this myth. The confusion stemmed when Dr. Keys described his experiments using the term “saturated fats” while referring to margarine, a butter substitute high in Trans fat. Meanwhile, everyone thought he was talking about butter, a dairy product high in saturated fat.

By the 1960s, the American Heart Association had recommended that people reduce their overall fat intake (including healthy fats), and in 1976, the U.S. Senate held a series of committee meetings on the topic. Food guidelines advocated for eating less saturated fat while increasing carbohydrates (even refined carbohydrates), triggering the war on fat. (3)

Prior to Keys’s campaign, people ate way more butter than we eat today but heart attacks were so rare and unheard of. Over the past century, as we adopted the erroneous views of Keys, and the recommendation of the American Heart Association, our butter consumption dropped and was replaced with margarine and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, both extremely high in Trans Fat. Because of this new way of eating, heart disease became the number-one cause of death for men and women at the dawn of the second millennium. (1)

Butter and saturated fat were seen as evil but it was margarine and Trans fat that were the culprit for artery clogs.

Later on, scientists discovered that butter, especially grass-fed butter, and saturated fats are not harmful to consume. Though, if a person has a pre-existing cardiovascular condition, then saturated fats should be consumed in moderation. (1)

If there is a deadly form of fat, it’s Trans Fat.

“Oops! Everything I said about saturated fats was really about margarine.”

Paraphrasing Ancel Keys, Ph.D.

Trans Fats

Not all fats are created equally. In fact, healthy forms of fats exist. Omega 3 fatty acids from fish and krill, avocado oil, nuts and seeds and grass-fed dairy are all beneficial. These healthy fats give our cells structure, regulate our hormones and improve brain health. Even vegetable oils like olive oil are shown to be highly beneficial for the heart.

Processing is what turns these beneficial fats into toxic compounds.

Through an industrial process of adding a hydrogen atom to the chemical structure of vegetable oils, Trans fats are born. This process solidifies the liquid nature of unsaturated fats found in vegetable oil making it an effective ingredient for prolonging shelf-life.

Margarine, creamers, crackers, cake mixes, cake shortening, cereals, store-bought muffins, doughnuts, French fries, fried restaurant food and even foods marketed as healthy like granola, soy milk and rice milk are all rich in Trans fat. 

Trans Fat has no known health benefits, and on top of that, it directly elevates very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) and low density lipoproteins (LDL), bad cholesterol that increase the risk for heart disease.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 540,000 deaths each year can be attributed to intake of industrially produced trans-fatty acids. High trans fat intake increases the risk of death from any cause by 34%, coronary heart disease deaths by 28%, and coronary heart disease by 21%. (5)

To make matters worse, consuming even just a small amount of Trans Fat exponentially produces free radicals which are linked to a variety of chronic diseases– a processed termed by doctor Cate Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition, The Zombie Effect. (1)

The label indicates 0 grams of Trans Fat but in the ingredient list, hydrogenated palm oil can be found.

How to Avoid Trans Fats

Knowledge is power. Read the label. Look for Trans Fat content in the Nutrition Facts section but, most especially, look for partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list. 

Be vigilant nutrition labels can be deceiving.

Current policies allow manufacturers to write 0 grams of Trans Fat on their labels as long as the total Trans Fat content is less than 0.5 grams per serving. If you are two servings, you’ll be consuming 1 gram of Trans Fat! Imagine eating a whole bag of cookies which contain 4 to 12 servings! Remember the Zombie Effect? You don’t need a lot of Trans fat in your diet for the grim reaper to come knocking at your door.

Avoid deep frying vegetable oils like Canola oil, Palm oil, Soy oil, Rapeseed oil, Sunflower oil and Safflower oils. When cooking, stick to oils that tolerate high heat like coconut oil, lauric oil, avocado oil, butter and grass-fed lard.

Call to Action

Zombies and Grim Reapers are great for Halloween but not for our health. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, Trans fat can leak into our diet because it’s present in most of our everyday food.

That is why we need our government to step in and cut the supply out.

Advocacies play a big role in trans fat elimination in order to spur both governments and industry to take action. ImagineLaw, a public interest law organization, develops and advocates for evidence-driven policy solutions to enable all people to live healthy and meaningful lives. You can learn more about them here: https://imaginelaw.ph

Trans Fat Free Philippines, a project by ImagineLaw in collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines, aims to develop policies designed to eliminate industrially-produced trans fatty acids (TFA) from the country’s food supply.

The good news is, all of us can take part in this life-saving advocacy and help every Filipino live healthier lives.

Last July 20, 2021, DOH AO No. 2021-0039, or the National Policy on the Elimination of Industrially-Produced Trans Fatty Acids for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, came into effect. The issuance of the DOH AO makes it the first policy in the country that calls for direct action towards the elimination of trans fat. 

While this AO is already in place, the Trans Fat Free Philippines Bill in Congress was approved in principle last December 9, 2020, and is still pending action in the HOR. These bills, filed by Reps. Ong, Delos Santos, Tan, Tambunting, and Villafuerte, can provide holistic protection from the harmful effects of trans fat

THERE IS HOPE. LET US MAKE THIS POLICY A REALITY!

You can take action by going to https://transfatfreephilippines.org/take-action and click TAKE ACTION to send a pre-made email to Congress in one click. 

YOU CAN HELP MAKE THE PHILIPPINES TRANS FAT FREE!

In our journey in Fitness and Health, it’s a given that we need to do the best we can with what we have to support our goals. We need to take full ownership of our workouts, diet and environment to see results. Most of the time, success is achieved in self-discipline but sometimes, it takes a wider perspective and a step beyond ourselves to create lasting results for generations to come.




Sources

1. Shanahan, C. (2018). Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food. Flatiron Books

2.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5475232/

3. https://draxe.com/nutrition/healthy-fats/

4.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4593072/

5.  Wang Q, Afshin A, Yakoob MY, Singh GM, Rehm CD, Khatibzadeh S, et al. (2016). Impact of nonoptimal intakes of saturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fat on global burdens of coronary heart disease. Journal of the American Heart Association

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