Trans Fats—the Science behind the Story

In December 2006, New York City became the first city to ban the use of artificial trans fats at all city restaurants, a mandate that went into effect in July 2008. Since that time, NYC’s trans fat ban has been looked upon as a unique health model that other major cities, including Washngton, D.C. and Philadelphia, have also considered implementing. Recently, the states of California and Illinois have moved forward with legislation that will eventually ban the use of artificial trans fat in all restaurants, cafes, and movie theaters (1).

As knowledge about the true nature of fats has expanded, saturated fat has actually been found to be a healthy source of nutrition and essential to the proper maintenance of many body systems (2). In contrast, trans fat, which was initially thought to be a healthy source of unsaturated fat, has instead been linked to several diseases, including coronary heart disease (CHD), diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease. This was not the given attitude even 20 years ago, when margarine was touted as healthy and lard was villainized.

Unsaturated fatty acids are found in two main configurations: trans (i.e., across) and cis (i.e., on the same side). These configurations are the result of carbon-carbon double bonds (C=C) within the skeleton of the molecule. Continue reading “Trans Fats—the Science behind the Story”