At this point, we have all heard that there are good and bad types of fat. You want to make sure there is fat from natural, healthy sources like avocado, nuts, fish, and olives. But what about the “bad” fat? Did you know there are two types of fat deemed bad for you: saturated and trans fat. The former should be consumed in moderation. Trans fat is the fat that could take years off your life and hurt your brain health. Trans fat is the type of fat that can kill you.

What is Trans Fat?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two types of trans fat. One type occurs naturally, and the other is created through a chemical industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil. This process results in the oil becoming solid at room temperature and less likely to spoil. That means the foods processed with it have a longer shelf life.

A number of studies have demonstrated that consumption of the chemically altered type of trans fat can cause serious health issues. That’s why the World Health Organization wants to completely eliminate them worldwide by the year 2023. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration determined that partially hydrogenated oils (PHO) were no longer recognized as safe and that removing them from processed foods could potentially save thousands of lives. Manufacturers were informed that after June 18, 2018, they would no longer be permitted to add partially hydrogenated oils to foods.

However, a number of manufacturers petitioned for, and were granted, lengthy extensions and are still not in compliance. Also, some foods on the shelves today still have PHOs because they were manufactured before the cut-off date and were able to make it into the stores. That’s why it’s essential to be very careful about reading labels when choosing processed foods.

Potential Health Risks Associated With Trans Fats

trans fat

One reason that processed trans fats are more dangerous than those that occur naturally is that they produce trans fatty acids. The World Health Organization recommends that the percentage of trans fatty acids in human dietary fat be no more than 4%. Those acids increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol while decreasing healthy HDL cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease. They also cause inflammation and have been shown to weaken cell membranes and the human immune system. One study that included more than 80,000 women concluded that women who consumed trans fats had a 40% increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes.

How Trans Fats Can Affect Women Over 50

dementia or brain scan

As we age, we become more vulnerable to a number of age-related illnesses that can significantly reduce our quality of life. Researchers continue to conduct studies to learn more about how trans fats affect the human body. One long-term study headed by Toshiharu Ninomiya, M.D., Ph.D., of Kyushu University lasted for over a decade. During that time, researchers measured the blood levels of elaidic acid of 1,628 men and women aged 60 and older. Elaidic acid is the most common type of trans fatty acid. The results of the study demonstrated a link between trans fat and dementia.

Within the ten years of the study, 377 of the subjects developed dementia. The study concluded that those with the highest blood levels of elaidic acid were 50% more likely to develop dementia and 39% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those with the lowest levels. These findings provide perhaps one of the most compelling reasons it’s so important for women over 50 to reduce the amount of unhealthy trans fats in their diets.

What Foods Have Trans Fat?

Trans fats are found in many processed and fast foods, but these are some of the worst culprits. Not all foods in these categories are still trans fat offenders, so check the labels before purchasing an item. Avoid it if it includes partially hydrogenated oil.

  • Fried foods like french fries
  • Margarine
  • Shortening
  • Bakery products made with shortening or vegetable oils
  • Cake mixes, frosting
  • Non-dairy creamers
  • Some variations of microwave popcorn
  • Vegetable oils (certain varieties)
  • Crackers
  • Pizza dough
  • Potato and corn chips

read labels to avoid trans fat

It’s essential to read labels when looking for trans fat. Some items, like Crisco or cake mixes, say they are trans-fat-free but still have hydrogenated oils listed as an ingredient. They may have trace amounts, which can add up quickly. And when you’re trying to avoid trans fat, you’d be better off eating products where it occurs naturally, like dairy and red meat.

What About Naturally Occurring Trans Fats?

While there are small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats in meat and dairy products, don’t worry. You won’t have to give them up completely. Much of the dairy and meat you consume has other nutrients that your body needs, like:

  • Calcium. Women over 50 need at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium every day to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which can result in bone fractures.
  • Protein. To prevent sarcopenia, the medical name for the loss of muscle mass, you need 1 to 1.5 grams of protein for approximately every two pounds of weight.
  • Vitamin B-12 also becomes more important for women over 50. The recommended daily dosage is 2.4 micrograms.

The trans fat in dairy products has been shown to be more beneficial than that found in meat. How meat is prepared can also affect the amount of trans fatty acids it contains. For example, fried meat will contain more than meat that is baked or steamed.

Women over 50 have earned those golden years and the wisdom that comes with them. The world stands to gain a lot from that wisdom. Using it to improve your future health is the best way to ensure that your 50s, 60s, and 70s will be as fabulous as your younger years.

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