Many of us try to avoid fatty foods because we know they will make us gain weight, even if they seem otherwise appetizing. The problem is that fats aren’t just found in fried foods, they’re also found in much of the food we eat, and we don’t know it. Even in some products that are sold to us as healthy.
It is very likely that sometimes – or frequently – we crave for the fries or wings or frozen pizza they sell at the supermarket, we assume that this pleasure is unhealthy and even so we are willing to pay the price. . But it also happens that we want something more Light and even then, we end up ingesting products containing harmful fats without realizing it, so the question is how do we identify them?
So, concerned about eating healthy, we avoid fried foods with their respective chilli and lemon, we run to some oatmeal cookies or those highly recommended snacks that promise to satiate us with a few calories, according to the advertisement. But we’ve lived in deception: even these seemingly healthy options aren’t, they contain one of the most harmful ingredients to our health.
The first thing we need to know is that not all fats are harmful
the unsaturated They are good for heart health. They are found in salmon, avocado, olives, nuts and vegetable oils, such as soy, corn and olive.
the saturatedpresent in meat and other animal products such as butter and cheese, may increase blood cholesterol and the risk of developing heart disease if consumed in excess
And there are those that must be avoided at all costs: the trans fat Where trans fatty acids. In margarine, ultra-processed foods and fast food. At snacks like pasta, cakes, sweet bread, cookies and fried foods; in frozen foods such as pizza, ice cream, snacks, non-dairy cream substitutes, chocolates, among others. That is to say, in everything that invades supermarkets, sundries, neighborhood stores.
Trans fats are a laboratory invention. They are not natural, they were developed as an alternative to saturated fats, supposedly to protect health. However, today we know that they are the most harmful and provide no nutritional value. On the contrary, they increase the risk of overweight, cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes mellitus. They also cause an increase in blood cholesterol LDL or “bad cholesterol” and a decrease in HDL cholesterol or “good cholesterol”.
Rebeca Monroy, a researcher at the University of Guanajuato, warns that “The consequences of consuming partially hydrogenated fats are very conservative because we have not been able to trace and identify the full effect, but we do know that they affect several cytokines (proteins responsible for intercellular communication) and produce inflammatory processes that affect the immune system and can lead to the development of other problems”.
The thing is that this type of fat is found in more products than you might imagine: instant soups, canned beans, box bread… even those that are offered as healthy and even recommended. by some nutritionists: bars, oatmeal cookies or big wave.
Monroy, author of the book “Guide for the development of research projects in the field of health in the era of sustainable development”, explains that trans fats are widely used by industry because “they increase the quality of the product but not its nutritional quality. It is sought that they are kept fresh, that they have an appetizing texture and that they are also economical but with a high cost to health.”.
Trans fats are not of natural origin, they are produced by industry. They form during the partial hydrogenation of liquid vegetable oils to form semi-solid fats, which is why they are also called partially hydrogenated oils.
And the daily intake of 5 grams is enough to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 25%: they are the cause of more than 160,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases on the American continent.
Monroy, a member of Mexico’s National System of Researchers, recalls that in 2007, when the United States regulated trans fat content and implemented a warning label, in Mexico most margarines from the northern neighbor benefited from a 50% discount. In supermarkets.
Although there is no safe healthy level of trans fat intake, the American Heart Association recommends that daily calorie intake from fat not exceed 25%, with less than 10% of saturated fat and less than 1% trans fat in a 2,000 Calorie Diet. In Mexico, we consume up to 4.49% of our diet in trans fatty acids, according to a report by the Mexico Salud-Hable Coalition.
The unstoppable fat
In 2018, the World Health Organization published a set of measures to eliminate trans fatty acids and proposed a ban on partially hydrogenated oils and a restriction of fatty acid content to a maximum of 2 grams per 100 of total fats or oils in all foods. As of September 2020, 58 countries have already adopted some of the regulations. It is a priority goal adopted at the 71st World Health Assembly and it is expected that by 2023 every country in the world will make progress in regulation, but the truth is that there are very few left things to meet that deadline and the regulatory processes are slow (just remember the long labeling battles).
In Latin America, countries like Brazil, Peru, Chile and Uruguay have taken steps to eliminate trans fats from industrial production. And here in Mexico, last October, the Senate of the Republic unanimously approved the ban on the use of this type of fat for food, but the minutes were sent to the House of Members, where it has not yet been discussed. Another subject among many others drawers while Mexico is among the 15 countries with the most deaths caused by the consumption of trans fats, without adopting policies to inhibit the intake.
When consulted for this text, the Federal Office for Consumer Protection replied that there are simply no rules here that regulate the content of these fats, except for the label of warning before. When it comes to action, what options do we have?
Dr. Rebeca Monroy recommends avoiding foods that contain trans fats at all costs, but also demanding transparency from “companies so that they give us the guarantee that there is no simulation”.
The WHO tells manufacturers of ultra-processed products that “Replacing industrially produced trans fatty acids with healthier oils and fats is cost effective and feasible, and can be done without changing the taste of foods or their cost to the consumer.”.
Organizations advocating for healthy eating warn that it is not enough to meet the limit set by the World Health Organization, because there are no specific regulations on industrial processes of vegetable oils, such as hydrogenation. The lack of process regulations is used by the processed food industry to misreport trans fat content.
And although in Mexico we already have a law on front labeling of foods, trans fats are spared from the octagons because, for them, the law has a safe conduct. If foods exceed 1% trans fat, they must have a warning label, but the vast majority of products don’t have the label because they don’t exceed it. So what to do to detect them? The Profeco National Laboratory recommends “check the ingredient list, if it contains partially hydrogenated fats, this is an indication that it contains trans fats”.
And while we try to read the illegible fine print or wait for authorities to set limits through laws, perhaps the best option for avoiding trans fats is to opt for natural foods and not foods. ultra-processed, packaged or fried. The safe doesn’t come in metal bags or have secret ingredients, it comes from the earth.