Post 87: The Worst Meal in America

I can't believe I had that for lunch!

I can’t believe I had that for lunch!

This blog post may make you ill: The Worst Meal in America

How bad could it possibly be? Oh, it is pretty bad. Holy crap, I had no idea this was still going on!

I know I seem to be telling people to avoid certain foods all the time but trans fats have to rank as one of worst offenders. Trans fats really are something to avoid.
Trans fats were created by adding a hydrogen molecule to an unsaturated fat molecule. This adds stability to the fat and increases shelf life. Innocent enough but the body doesn’t know what to do with it. When the body doesn’t recognize it, bad things usually happen.
That is the layman version of trans fats. Here is a good scientific article I found on
First off here is the disclaimer that this is not meant to represent medical advice of any kind and please talk to your doctor and/or a registered dietician regarding your dietary needs
Definition of trans fat
Trans fat is a specific type of fat formed when liquid fats are made into solid fats by the addition of hydrogen atoms, in a process strangely enough known as hydrogenation. That being said, small amounts of trans fats are found naturally in certain animal based foods. Trans fat was originally added to foods to increase the shelf life. Trans fat does not stand for “Transformed fat” (except maybe in the mind of someone trying to market this), but comes from the fact that the hydrogen atoms in the double bond are actually across from each other (see below). This comes from the Latin meaning of trans, which is across.

The FDA has estimated that the average American consumes 5.8 grams of trans fat per day!
What are the health effects of trans fat?
An Institute of Medicine/National Acadamies of Science report recently recommended that “trans fatty acid consumption be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.” Trans fat gives a double dose of bad news, as it increases so-called bad cholesterol, which is actually Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and decreases so-called good cholesterol, which is actually high density lipoprotein (HDL). Most experts agree that it is the ratio of LDL to HDL which determines your risk factor for heart disease, so it is good for anyone interested in a healthful diet to reduce the intake of trans fat. Other types of fat have not been shown to decrease HDL, but saturated fats have been shown to increase LDL. It is advisable to decrease the daily intake of saturated fat AND trans fat and not give up by increasing the other.
One thing to remember is that there is no daily recomended value for trans fat. It potentially is required in small amounts in our diet, but certainly not at 5.8 grams per day!
Truth in Advertising?
In the current FDA rule trans fat does not have to be listed if the total fat in a food is less that 0.5 grams per serving and no claims are made about the fat, fatty acids or cholesterol content. The result of this rule is that you could consume up to 0.49 grams per serving and think you are being good to yourself. I picked up some chips at the supermarket, and they actually had a label on the front advertising “0 grams trans fat” and I bought them only to get home and realize that partially hydrogenated soybean oil was on the ingredients list! What to do? Read the ingredients and look for the word “shortening” or the words “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated.”
If below the threshold of 0.5 grams, a footnote will be on the label stating that the food is not a significant source of trans fat. If the daily value and the extent of health risk due to trans fat consumption is not defined then how can it be defined as “not a significant source”? What is the context for that statement?
Steps to minimize the amount of trans fat in your diet
Here are some simple steps you can take to minimize the amount of trans-fat in your diet:

  • Read the label and compare foods – This is not always as easy as you think as the current rules may allow a manufacturer to label as 0g transfat on the label, when there are actually up to 0.49g per serving (see below).
  • Switch to monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. These fats are found in oils (olive, canola, and others) and nuts. These fats not only do not raise LDL, but have health benifits when consumed in moderation. A related suggestion is to switch to vegtabale oils. I use olive oil when cooking and usually corn or sunflower oil for everything else.
  • Many processed and ready to prepare foods contain trans fat, such as microwave popcorn. If you use corn oil and a large pan on the stove, it tastes better anyway…

Links for more information:
Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling, Nutrient Content Claims, and Health Claims – FDA final rule
Ban Trans Fats – The Campaign to Ban Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Now you have a better idea of this, here is the original article.
LOS ANGELES — The Center for Science in the Public Interest rarely makes friends in the nation’s chain restaurants. The advocacy group frequently calls out foods it finds nutritionally objectionable.
And this week, it put Long John Silver’s Big Catch meal, with hush puppies and onion rings, in its spotlight, calling it the worst restaurant meal in America — even though plenty of other choices have more calories.
The CSPI said laboratory tests show the Big Catch has 33 grams of trans fat, “the most powerful promoter of heart disease in the food supply,” and an additional 19 grams of saturated fat and nearly 3,700 milligrams of sodium — more salt than is recommended for a day. The Big Catch has 1,320 calories. The dish, the Louisville-based company said, is a temporary menu addition it will offer through July, “or while supplies last.”
Visit me at Michael Medvig is a personal trainer and owner of M Factor Fitness Inc., an in home personal training company in Parker Colorado. This blog represents opinions on fitness. Do your own research and draw your own conclusions. All information and materials on this site are provided as is and without warranty of any kind. These materials (including all text, images, logos, compilation, and design, unless otherwise noted) are copyright 2001-2010 M Factor Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright 2001-2010 M Factor Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. |