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.


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Lindy - September 14, 2009 2:09 PM

Hi and thanks. I lost my excess weight on a low carb diet, but always had a niggling doubt about its impact on my overall health. So, in 2008 I began researching the healthiest way of eating and found that calorie restriction, or CRON (calorie restriction with optimal nutrition), has the most convincing scientific backing. However, this is difficult to follow as it means monitoring every morsel one eats. Fortunately I came across your simple and sensible eating plan, and have stuck with it. I like that I can eat lots of healthy, nutrient-dense food while still keeping my calories low. And I feel great. However, I am having a problem with the social aspects of eating in this way and am constantly having to explain to people that I really do not desire or need to eat slabs of meat, sugary cakes, foods saturated in trans fats, etc. I hate coming across as a food crank. I'm fine at home, but next week, for example, I have a 4-day business trip coming up and am dreading the sort of food I'll have to consume out of politeness to my hosts. I will do my best, but know that there is often very little choice in what is offered. Any suggestions as to how to cope?

Emily Boller - September 14, 2009 9:04 PM

Think of it this way, would you be impolite if someone offered you a pack of cigarettes and you knew it would compromise your health to smoke it?

I think we all need to re-evaluate what politeness is with regards to food. If we know a particular food(s) is detrimental to our health, then why even entertain the thought of compromise?

I'm learning to say to everyone who offers me food that is not health promoting that I cannot eat the particular food that is being offered due to health reasons. (I want to prevent diabetes and heart disease, to name a few!)

I have a child with juvenile diabetes, and if he compromises his food choices, he pays dearly for it.

In reality, ALL of us pay a price when we eat for disease.

Pleasing people will only prove to be a snare, and keep us trapped in captivty.

Let your hosts /business associates know how much you apprecaite their kindness and offers, but politely say, "No thank you" if the choices are not health promoting.

If done in a polite manner I can't imagine anyone would object.

Always be in control of your health destiny, or addiction and disease will be in control of you.

Sara - September 14, 2009 9:32 PM

Lindy- A tried and true line is "My doctor told me I need to eat this way." Usually you need say no more. If a doctor said it...

Lindy - September 15, 2009 2:56 AM

Emily and Sara, I agree that health comes first, although a pack of cigarettes is not socially acceptable, while eating is. I am a foreigner living in Sweden and on such business trips the hosts put themselves out to make one feel welcome. Food, usually in the form of local delicacies, is always involved. I respect hospitality, up to a point. So, I've decided to phone ahead and say I am on a restricted diet due to allergies and will ask where I can get hold of vegetarian food during my stay. They will then know in advance and won't be embarrassed. By the way, I have found that the word "allergies" wields more power here than the word "doctor".

Emily Boller - September 15, 2009 11:19 AM


Great idea! "Allergies" is socially accepted by most everyone.

The consideration of a phone call in advance is a very polite gesture. I can't imagine anyone who would be offended by such thoughtfulness.

Hopefully, over time, we will change the social norm of the culture and eating for disease will no longer be socially acceptable either . . . . at least it is a goal that we can all aim for. Smile.

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