What Actually Is Trans Fat?

We hear a lot lately about trans fat and how bad it is for us. Every wonder what trans fat is? For starters, it's a kind of fatty acid. Fatty acids are long chains of carbon acids (C), with hydrogen (H) and other fun stuff attached.

A Fatty Acid
Sometimes (in the case of unsaturated fatty acids) there can be a double bond between carbon atoms. Here’s an example. Take a close look at the section circled in red.


Remember the double bond I just mentioned? It is represented by the two lines between the carbon atoms. Now look at the 2 hydrogen atoms in yellow. Notice that they are on the same side: both are above the carbon atoms (or they could both be below for that matter). Note also, that the whole molecule is bent.
Now look at the trans fat version of the same molecule:

All the same atoms we saw before (10 carbon atoms, 18 hydrogen atoms, 2 oxygen atoms) are still there. However, one of those hydrogen atoms (marked in yellow, for clarity) has flipped over to the other side. Notice that the molecule has a different shape. It is now pretty straight.
So why does this matter?
The trans type of molecule rarely occurs in nature. As such, our bodies aren’t equipped to digest it, like they are other fatty acids. They wreak havoc on your system. This is one area where the jury is in. Both traditional medical sources and alternative therapists agree that they provide no benefit and actually do considerable damage, especially to the heart. There is legislation in countries around the world making it mandatory to label trans fats, or to outlaw them altogether.

Next trans fat post will explain where trans fats are found and how to avoid them.

This post was shared with Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Real Food Forager, The Healthy Home Economist, Hartke is Online Real Food FreaksFood RenegadeGnowfglins, theNourishing GourmetHealthy Home EconomistSimply Sugar and Gluten Free, and Real Food Forager.

1 comment:

Jill@RealFoodForager.com said...

Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!
http://realfoodforager.com/fat-tuesday-february-14-2012/

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