Processed Foods and Trans-Fats are Dangerous to Body Chemistry

Trans fats are manmade fats that are used in processed foods. They are modified vegetable-derived fats that may be even worse than animal-derived saturated fats. They are called trans fat or hydrogenated oils, and they are laboratory-designed to have a similar chemical structure as saturated fat. They are solid at room temperature and have adverse health consequences. Like saturated fats, they promote heart disease and cancer.

When you are reading food labels and you see the words “partially hydrogenated” on the box, it is another way of saying trans fat, so avoid it. If you avoid processed food, it is easy to avoid trans fat. These harmful fats are found in crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen foods, and snacks. Most enticing desserts and fried foods contain trans fat, even if they contain no animal products and no cholesterol. Even natural, microwavable popcorn contains trans fats.

In addition to trans fats, the baking of grains and potatoes performed on many processed foods causes browning of the food and the formation of a hard crust, which is rich in acrylamides. In the last five years there has been worldwide alarm in the scientific community after researchers have found that many of the foods we eat contain these cancer-causing compounds. Acrylamides form in foods that are browned by being fried, baked, roasted, grilled, or barbequed, but not in those that are steamed, boiled or sautéed in water. Water-based cooking prevents the browning or burning that forms these harmful compounds. Frying and overcooking lead to the highest levels of acrylamides, the highest of which are found in fried chips, such as potato chips, French fries, and sugar-coated breakfast cereals.

Even though these chemicals have been shown to be potent carcinogens in animal models, so many acrylamides are consumed in the modern world that good research documenting the extent of the cancer risk in humans does not yet exist. This topic is still being actively investigated in many different countries, but the risk is difficult to estimate because baked, browned, and fried foods are so ubiquitous in Western diets.

European governments permit far less acrylamides in packaged foods than the U.S. and, they have been advising food manufacturers to reduce them. Cereals and processed foods manufactured in the United States are not under such restraints and have much higher acrlyamide levels. Since the same browned and hard-baked products are rich sources of the Advanced Glycation End Products previously discussed, there are plenty of reasons to minimize or avoid these foods in your diet.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.


Red Meat and Processed Meats Are Bad News

Red meat and processed meats contain more saturated fat and trans fat than other animal products, and, therefore, are poorer food choices. However, the fat issue does not tell the whole story. Scientific studies have documented that red meat has a much more pronounced association with colon cancer and pancreatic cancer compared with other animal products. The consumption of red meat and processed meats on a regular basis more than doubles the risk of some cancers. Even ingesting a small amount of red meat, such as two to three ounces a day, has been shown to significantly increase the risk of cancer.1 Toxic nitrogenous compounds (called N-nitroso) occur in larger concentrations in red meat and processed meats. Red meat also has high haem (also spelled heme) content. Haem is an iron-carrying protein, and it has been shown to have destructive effects on the cells lining our digestive tract.2 Processed meat, luncheon meat, barbequed meat, and red meat must not be a regular part of your diet if you are looking to maintain excellent health into your later years of life.

The frequent consumption of animal products also increases the risk of cancer. To achieve optimal health, we require a significant exposure to a full symphony of phytochemicals in unprocessed plant matter that we would not be eating sufficiently as animal products increase as a percent of total calories and the percentage of vegetation decreases proportionally. Also, since animal products contain no fiber, they remain in the digestive tract longer, slowing digestive transit time and allowing heightened exposure to toxic compounds.

Your goal is to gradually reduce the consumption of animal products in your diet until you’re only consuming them two to three times per week, but you should certainly avoid processed meat and barbecued meat.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.

1. Chao A, Thun JT, Connell CJ, et al. Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer JAMA 2005;293:172-182.

2. Sesink AL, Termont DS, Kleibeuker JH, Van der Meer R. Red meat and colon cancer: dietary haem-induced colonic cytotoxicity and epithelial hyperproliferation are inhibited by calcium. Carcinogenesis 2001;22(10):1653-1659. Hughes R, Cross AJ, Pollock JR, Bingham S. Dose dependent effect of dietary meat on endogenous colonic N-nitrosation. Carcinogenesis 2001; 22(1):199-202.

Health-Points: Friday 5.8.09


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Q & A: Balancing Your Omega Fats

We all know fat can be bad, like trans-fat. Trans-fat raises LDL or bad cholesterol and also lowers HDL or good cholesterol, but still, many fats are very healthy, like omega fats, found in stuff like avocados. Here’s a quick Q & A about balancing omega fats from Dr. Fuhrman’s member center:

Question: My dim understanding is that our diet and consequently our blood and our tissues should contain some ideal ratio of omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats, such as a 1 to 1 or 1 to 2 ratio of ecicosapentanoic acid (EPA) to arachidonic acid (AA). So the fact that a blood test would detect some AA is not necessarily bad, so long as the test detects a roughly equal amount of EPA, is this correct?

Dr. Fuhrman: Yes, you need some AA. Only in excess is it a problem. Some of fats are more pro-inflammatory, but it is a question of balance. When you eat a diet rich in greens with about half seeds and nuts in a 1 to 1 ratio, with some supplemental DHA if you do not eat fish regularly, then you get the right balance of fatty acids, obsessing to get a 1 to 1 or even a 2 to 1 ratio results in food paranoia.

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News Coverage Slows Trans-Fat Purchases

Trans-fat’s been quiet lately, but for good reason. New findings in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine claim negative news reports on the dangers of trans-fat, such as heart risks, influences people to avoid foods with trans-fat. Trans-fat raises LDL or “bad cholesterol” and also lowers HDL or “good cholesterol” and is commonly found in junk foods like cookies, crackers and French fries. Researchers found shoppers in Los Angeles, California were more careful about their purchases after media coverage on artery-clogging trans-fats, but only for a short time; Reuters reports.

Not to long ago there was a great debate about banning trans-fat. Many health experts want trans-fat gone, but other say trans-fat is a market issue and consumers should decide whether or not they want to buy it. But trans-fat is unhealthy, linked to both colon cancer and breast cancer.

Trans-fat has gotten the shaft nationwide, from New York to California, even retailers and restaurants like Wal-Mart and Kentucky Fried Chicken have given trans-fat the heave-ho.

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Half of Irish Consumers Don't Read Food Labels

Irish consumers aren’t paying attention. A new survey by Ireland’s Nutrition and Health Foundation claims 61% of men and 40% of females never read nutrition labels before making a purchase. Experts questioned 536 people in local supermarkets and determined only 32% of those surveyed knew the difference between salt and sodium and only 10% understood the difference between energy and calories; Food Navigator reports.

Read nutrition facts carefully. Labels on many processed foods, like potato chips, are deceptive and sometimes contain too much salt even though they say sodium or contain trans-fat when the package reads trans-fat free. Scoundrels!

Ireland is consumed with national health, especially obesity. The government wants to limit the amount of Subway sandwich shops, saying their food is too high in calories.

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More of New York Banning Trans-Fat

This summer New York City put the clamps on trans-fat, banning it from the city and since then other parts of New York have followed suite. Suffolk County, Long Island banned trans-fat earlier this month, along with Nassau, Albany and Westchester counties. Local officials call it an important move that will help residents eat smarter and healthier. But not everyone is happy, a senator in New Jersey who proposed a ban last year actually received physical threats and hate mail; The New York Times reports.

Trans-fat is bad news! A recent study linked trans-fat to colon cancer and it has been associated with both heart disease and cancer. Trans-fat turns up in all sorts of food, like dried soups, frozen entrees, energy bars, doughnuts, cookies and much more, so make a note, don’t eat that crap.

Actually, New York has been pretty proactive with food lately, by requiring restaurants to post calories on menus and New York Governor David Paterson wants to put a tax on sugary beverages, like non-diet drinks and any fruit juice that is less than 70% juice.

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