Avoiding Trans Fatty Acids (TFAs)

Avoiding Trans Fatty Acids (TFAs)

The most harmful fats you can put into your body, pregnant or not, are transunsaturated fats. Wev’e all heard of them but what are they?

Trans fats (TFAs) are listed on products as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening. These bad fats are cheap; and are used to retain the shelf life of foods, give crackers their crispiness and provide moistness or buttery texture to cakes.

According to the FDA, trans fats are so damaging to the body that there is no safe level or daily allowance suggested. TFAs are major contributors to clogged arteries, heart disease, cancer, skin disease and diabetes.

The reason TFAs are so harmful is that they interfere with the body’s ability to ingest and utilise good fats which are physiologically important to brain function. Especially when pregnant, TFAs do not provide strong building blocks for a developing foetal brain and nervous system. Due to their bond structure, TFAs cause our cells to become rigid and inflexible, which then causes nerves to have greater difficulty passing information from one nerve to the next.

Studies indicate that the massive increase of TFAs in our diet over the last 20 years has been a main contributing factor in ADD and childhood behaviour problems. Furthermore, adult mood problems such as poor concentration, anxiety, depression and aggression can also be linked to TFAs.

It appears that TFAs also encourage fatty body tissue to synthesise small amounts of testosterone, prostaglandin and other related hormones. Studies indicate this may then play a role in increasing the severity of PMS, period pains and endometriosis. This process may also fuel other hormonal imbalances such as Polycystic Ovarian Disorder, fibroids and low libido.

TFAs also impede insulin and its capacity to bind with cells. When unbound insulin circulates longer in the blood stream, the result is a quick return to hunger and individuals will find they are soon eating again.
Unfortunately, TFAs are found in almost every pre-packaged and fried food available.Foods that often contain TFAs include kids’ favourites, such as hot chips or French fries, crackers, cookies, biscuits, crisps, cakes, cereals and margarines.

The average American consumes 6–8% of his/her daily calories through transfats! If you examine the contents of pre-packaged food, you’ll note at least one ingredient listed as fractionated or hydrogenated oil (denoting a TFA).

Please see Chapter 14 of Well Adjusted Babies for information on how a lack of EFA’s may contribute to post-natal depression, and Chapter 23 for further information on good fats and oils.