Looking to lose weight? Try our FREE Calorie Counter »  |  Log In
Articles Fitness Nutrition

The Difference between Fat and Trans Fat

Jun 18, 2010

People often get the wrong notion about the difference between fat and trans fat. The idea of fat consumption can be damaging, which may lead to faulty dietary behavior. Therefore, to clarify the misconception, it is essential to know the disparity between the two: which fat can provide nutritional value and which one can pose a threat to your health.

What is Fat?

Dietary fat is one of the fundamental nutrients that your body needs to have so that all body organs and systems can function properly. Fatty acids and linoleic acids are produced once fat is digested in the stomach. These are essential for growth, metabolism and smooth blood pressure regulation.

There are two major types of fat: solid fat (saturated) and liquid fat (unsaturated). Oil is unsaturated fat, the soluble substance that is capable of being liquefied or dissolved except in water. Food sources of saturated fat are animal products such as meat, poultry, dairy products and seafood. Other sources are tropical oils like coconut and palm. In contrast, food sources of unsaturated fat are plant sources like avocados, nuts and olives.

Given the food sources of the two types of dietary fat, it is worth remembering that according to researches, saturated fat can raise the LDL or bad cholesterol, while unsaturated fat can raise the HDL or good cholesterol.

What is Trans Fat?

Trans fat is another kind of saturated fat found in the body fats of ruminant animals, such as sheep and cattle, that contain 2 to 5 percent of body fat. Moreover, trans fats can also be made through the hydrogenation process, which was invented in the 1930s. The procedure deals with turning the liquid or unsaturated fat into a solid saturated fat with a greater degree of hydrogen for several hours before mixing to vegetable oil.

Commercial food products like baked foods, soups, fast foods, chocolates and toppings with shortening and margarine are high in trans fat. The main reason why manufacturers are using hydrogenated oils in food production is to increase the shelf life of their products.

Any type of fats contains 9 calories; therefore, it has twice the calories of any carbohydrate or protein. The suggested percent of daily consumption of fats should not be more than 35 percent or not more than 77 g of fat based on the recommended 2,000 daily calorie intake. Trans fats have no health benefits and nutritional value to provide, and can only increase the LDL or bad cholesterol and decrease the HDL or good cholesterol. Several researches were reported linking trans fats to heart diseases.

Trans Fat Ban

Several countries, such as Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, became proponents in prohibiting the manufacture of products with trans fats. With collaborative effort from different local institutions, government and manufacturers, a strict safety standard eliminating trans fat in food production was regulated.

Finally, it is your responsibility to check labels of products, and make sure to eat the right foods that are essential to health.

Article Comments