Small Change #4: Trans Fat and Fertility

Natural Fertility and Trans Fat

photo credit: psd

We know trans fats aren’t good for us. Some cities have even banned them, and restaurants are starting to eliminate them as well. Even food packaging claims 0 grams trans fat! (by the way-it doesn’t really mean zero. They can have up to a half a gram per serving and still claim no trans fats!)

What is trans fat?
A bit about it from Health and Goodness

Vegetable oils are generally liquid at room temperature, so how is it that we have margarine made from sunflower oil and corn oil? The process involved in this transformation is called hydrogenation. Food manufacturers want a solid fat that does not go rancid easily and doesn’t have any real taste. Hydrogenation gives them this.

Hydrogenation is a high tech process. Vegetable seeds are cleaned and bleached to remove all colour, taste, smells and impurities. The liquid vegetable oil is then heated to high temperatures and a catalyst (commonly nickel, but could be palladium, platinum or rhodium) is added. Hydrogen is bubbled through the liquid. The mixture is then filtered to remove the metal, leaving hydrogenated vegetable oil. Water, whey, salt, vitamins, colourings, flavourings and emulsifiers may then be added to produce hydrogenated margarine.

How it affects us
Trans fat can suppress the activity in cell receptors that are involved in inflammation, glucose metabolism, and insulin sensitivity. A study led by Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that this suppression can lead to low fertility and can also manifest itself as PCOS.

This study was done with 18,555 women who were trying to get pregnant between 1991 and 1999. The risk of infertility rose 73% for every 2% of energy a woman took from trans fats instead of carbohydrates (two percent of energy is equivalent to 4 grams of trans fats per 1800 calories consumed). And get this, Americans eat (on average) 6 grams of trans fats each day! So you can see how much this might affect women quite drastically. In men, trans fats can decrease testosterone and increase the number of abnormal sperm (source).

How to avoid it

  • Check labels for every food you buy. Even if it says zero trans fats, look for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredient list. If it’s in there, put those chips/ice cream/crackers back on the shelf!
  • Don’t fry your foods in vegetable oil. Even normal vegetable oil (which is still not good for you!) can turn to trans fat when subjected to high heat.
  • Avoid shortening and margarine. While butter may have a higher percentage of saturated fat (total fat in 1 Tbsp 10.8 {saturated 7.2} it contains almost no trans fat, at 0.03 grams. Stick margarine on the other hand has 11 grams total, 2.1 saturated and 2.8grams of trans fat)
  • Eat more whole foods and less processed foods.
  • Buy organic chips/crackers if you must have them, or have children who are used to them. They aren’t allowed to have partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in them.
  • Eat out less, as restaurants don’t always disclose an ingredient list with their nutritional information!

Luckily so much bad press has been released about trans fat the last couple years that food manufacturers are finally starting to listen and not include it as much as in the past. But unfortunately some of those manufacturers are also getting a bit sneaky and putting in just under a half a gram so they can label it “zero trans fats”. If anything you pick up off the shelf has hydrogenated oil in it, Put. It. Back.

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.