Trans fat is one of the biggest enemies of a healthy lifestyle. At the same time that it brings harm to health, it is also present in most of the goodies that so please the palate of the general population.
This type of fat can exist naturally — it is possible to find it, for example, in small amounts in milk and meat of animal origin. But its main production is artificial, with the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils subjected to high temperatures, changing their physical characteristics and making them solid, that is, easier to use.
In its artificial form, it is used to increase the shelf life and improve the texture of foods, such as snacks, stuffed cookies, ice cream, ready-to-eat frozen products, microwave-ready popcorn, among others, according to Cláudia Chang, post- PhD in Endocrinology and Metabology from USP (University of São Paulo).
According to a 2018 survey by the WHO (World Health Organization), the consumption of trans fat is linked to more than 500,000 deaths per year from cardiovascular diseases.
“The condition called angina (caused by obstruction of the coronary arteries), heart attack and strokes are among the most significant diseases and that are related to a dietary profile of high intake of this fat”, explains Ricardo Casalino, doctor in cardiology at USP .
Why is trans fat bad?
Unlike unsaturated fat, which is considered good and is present in foods of plant origin, or even saturated fat, which, in a certain amount, is an important source of energy, trans has no benefits and in the long term causes great impacts to the health.
All this fear is not for nothing: it has the power to affect the lipid profile of each individual, increasing LDL levels, which is the “bad” cholesterol, and lowering HDL, which is known as “good” cholesterol.
The increase in LDL leads to clogging of the arteries, which can cause further complications, such as acute myocardial infarction and stroke. According to Chang, this is also related to other metabolic diseases, such as hepatic steatosis, which is the accumulation of fat in the liver.
A person who already has compromised blood vessels needs to use a series of medications. “In addition to drugs to control cholesterol, there are other measures that go according to the history of each one, such as controlling blood pressure and diabetes”, says Casalino.
The specialist also recommends that, in the treatment and avoidance of these diseases, smoking and physical inactivity should be avoided and there is still a thorough review of the menu alongside a nutritionist or nutritionist.
Is there an indication of consumption?
There’s no secret about it: trans fat is not recommended at all. But, as it is difficult to completely avoid its consumption, there are some guidelines so that it does not compromise health.
According to Laryssa Carvalho, nutritionist at Hospital São Domingos, in Maranhão, the recommendation is that, in a diet of 2,000 calories a day, only 1% comes from this substance – according to the WHO, there are a maximum of 2 grams per 100 g. of oils and fats.
The specialist also recommends some substitutions: industrialized ice cream can be exchanged for frozen fruit blended in a blender, giving it density and creaminess. It is important to have a diet rich in natural foods, always thinking about “peeling more and unpacking less”.
Fighting trans fat in food
The WHO has a mission to eliminate trans fat from all processed foods around the world by the end of 2023. This is being done with regulatory and awareness measures in several countries.
Some measures are already being taken in Brazil. In 2003, it was established that labels must, obligatorily, declare the amount of trans fats present in products. But there is a “gotcha”: the resolution allows foods that have an amount less than or equal to 0.2 g per serving to declare themselves free of this fat.
This initiative caused concern, as it may lead to increased consumption of this type and fat due to the high intake of these products. A tip is to check the ingredients: if it says “partially hydrogenated fat”, it means it’s not completely trans-free.
In 2019, Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency) approved rules for this substance to be completely banned from products by next year (2023). All vegetable oils and processed foods in the supermarket must adopt a limit of up to 2% trans, gradually eliminating their sale and consumption.