Trans fats and heart disease – human health and disease

Manmade trans fats have been consumed by humans since the late 19th century, at the time that the scientist discovered that when you add hydrogen atoms to saturated fats you can produce trans fats. This was to the delight of the food industry with it being a cheaper alternative to solid animal fats and as the atoms were being added to saturated fats which were deemed to be the healthy fat alternative. Several studies have been conducted with evidence condemning the use of trans fats in foods. Some states in the United States have banned trans fats and are now demanding strict labelling and calling for the FDA to ban trans fats completely. With the increase of trans fats being used in our foods, which has enable the food industry to have a much longer shelf life has come the health issues. Unfortunately, this has also had a major impact on the health of everyone that consumes trans fats. One area of health that has been heavily affected is with heart disease.

The types of trans fats being consumed by humans today are mainly man made. The food industry is in favour of trans fats as foods containing trans fats do not spoil as fast and have a much longer shelf life, solid fats are safer to transport and more cost effective than solid animal fats. (1) When saturated oil is hydrogenated, the hydrogenation acts as a preservative. (3)

In the late 19th century, scientists stumbled over the fact that you could add hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats and turn liquid saturated oil into solid fat. Trans fats have become part of many foods people consume, such as margarines, baked goods, crisps, popcorn, readymade frozen food which are readily available in supermarkets, snack foods and fast foods to name a few. (1, 2)

At the time trans fats were discovered, the idea of changing from butter and animal products to a product that was thought the be a healthy saturated fat seemed like a healthy alternative. This has seen an enormous growth in the consumption of trans fats. (1)

Before man made trans fats, the only types of trans fats that were consumed were from dairy products, beef, lamb and deer. The small amount that we would eat did not have the detrimental effect we are seeing today. (1)

It wasn’t until 1981 when Welsh researchers discovered that trans fats were linked to heart disease. This was supported by a Harvard study undertaken in 1993 that identified that the consumption of trans fats (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) were contributing factors to heart attack. (1)

We now know that eating trans fats also contributes to changes in cholesterol. Consumption of trans fats raises your LDL (low-density lipoprotein – known as your bad cholesterol) and lowers your HDL (high-density lipoprotein – known as your good cholesterol). The other effect of this is inflammation that increases the working of the immune system and is a contributor to heart disease. Studies undertaken by the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition shows evidence that stopping the consumption of trans fats could reduce up to 1 in 5 heart attacks occurring and deaths. (1) Studies have found that trans fats are a cause of endothelial dysfunction, where the blood vessels do not dilate fully, this also contributes to atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease and chronic heart failure, just to name a few chronic conditions. (3)

Epidemiological research has provided evidence showing people that consume foods high in saturated fat have high readings of serum cholesterol and a high instance of coronary heart disease, results are showing that trans fats are worse than saturated fats. Results are showing that trans fats a major contributing factor for 30,000 to 100,000 premature coronary deaths in the US. (2) In an extensive study by Nurses’ Health identified that trans fats consumed by women double the heart disease risk. (3)

Trans fats are known to be one of the worst fats for your heart. These fats were unknown for quite some time, unless you were a label reader and understood the ingredients. Trans fats are labelled as vegetable shortening (now let’s think about these 2 words – how many of the vegetables we consume contain fat, great play on words or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – again we think this must be a good fat as it is a vegetable oil. Ensure that you always check the labels of food you are considering purchasing, look out for the above 2 ingredients. (1)

There are still copious amounts of foods being purchased around the world that do not have labels on them, as they are not packaged. These are in the form of foods we purchase from bakeries, café’s, restaurants, food stalls markets, local stores and anywhere that you have not made the food yourself. Make wise choices about where you are purchasing readymade food and check the authenticity of where the produce comes from and what is in the food you are about to eat. (1)

The results of research over the last century have become very apparent that trans fats are causing a high instance of heart disease and having a major impact on our cholesterol readings with trans fats increasing our LDL and reducing our HDL. Studies are also showing a connection between the consumption of trans fats and myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease death.


  1. Website: Title of Article: Shining The Spotlight on Trans Fats Date published: unknown Website Address:

  2. Website: Title of Article: Trans fats-sources, health risks and alternative approach – A Date published: Website Address:

  3. Website: Title of Article: How Trans Fats Ruin Health Date published: updated 21 March 2016 Website Address:

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