Everything You Know About Trans Fat Is a Lie

Debunking misconceptions about food and nutrition

Terence Shin, MSc, MBA



Trans fats have been vilified in our diets for years, painted as the chief villains in the narrative of poor health and heart disease. But what if this narrative is based more on fiction than fact? This in-depth exploration aims to unravel the complex story of trans fats, challenging long-held beliefs and shedding light on the nuances of this controversial topic.

The Demonization of Fats: A Historical Perspective

Our journey begins in the 1950s and 1960s when heart disease was on the rise in America. Scientists like Ancel Keys began to investigate dietary causes, particularly focusing on fats. Keys’ seminal Seven Countries Study seemed to show a link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease, igniting a war against all fats. This was the perfect storm for the food industry, particularly companies like Procter & Gamble, the maker of Crisco, a hydrogenated vegetable oil. They, and other similar companies, saw an opportunity and launched aggressive marketing campaigns promoting their ‘heart-healthy’ vegetable oils, further cementing the notion that ‘all fats are bad,’ especially saturated and trans fats.

The American Heart Association, receiving significant donations from these food companies, began to recommend low-fat diets, inadvertently pushing the public towards processed foods rich in sugar and trans fats. It was a classic case of good intentions being hijacked by commercial interests, leading to decades of misguided dietary advice.

The Truth About Fats

Fats, including trans fats, are not a monolith. There are good fats, like those found in nuts and fish, and there are bad fats, like those in many processed foods. But the real story of trans fats is more nuanced than the conventional wisdom suggests. It’s a tale of two types: artificial and natural trans fats.

Artificial trans fats are industrially created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, a process that extends shelf life and enhances flavor. These are the bad guys, linked to increased heart disease risk, bad cholesterol levels, and other health issues. Conversely…