Watch out for trans-fats in that cheeseburger and fries you're eating!
This Nature journal article about a new study showing the high trans-fat content of fast food is leading to higher and higher rates of obesity as well as insulin resistance leading to diabetes is yet another reason why people who are livin' la vida low-carb should avoid fast food restaurants altogether.
As if finding out about how they make and manufacture their chargrilled chicken patties wasn't traumatic enough for you, researchers have now found that the kind of fat content in foods such as a burger and French fries at your local fast food joint can actually make you nearly one-third fatter than other fats that contain the same caloric content.
Lead researcher Kylie Kavanagh from the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina presented the findings of her study at the 66th Annual Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association on Monday.
Kavanagh and her fellow research team wanted to see what the actual impact of the fats found in fast food were having on the people's health and she used monkeys to investigate her hypothesis that trans-fats were leading to weight gain and insulin resistance.
For the six-year study, she fed one set of monkeys a meal consisting of 8 percent partially hydrogenated soybean oil (trans-fats), which is the same as a human eating a cheeseburger with fries, every single day. A second set of monkey were fed the exact same diet, except the trans-fats were removed from the meal and changed to another chemical form of fat.
Amazingly, Kavanagh said she could visibly notice her furry friends' who were fed the trans-fats had a distinct belly on them that measured a full 7 percent increase in body weight compared with a mere 2 percent weight gain in the other group. In fact, the monkeys fed the trans-fat diet had 30 percent more fat around their stomach, which means they stored more fat despite the fact they ate the same number of fat calories as the other group.
"You can see white globs of fat in these guys," Kavanagh remarked at the ADA meeting about the group of monkeys who ate the trans-fats.
In addition to the weight gain, Kavanagh found the trans-fat monkeys also developed insulin resistance, a precursor to the onset of Type 2 diabetes. She noted that people who regularly eat trans-fats in their diet are "walking down the road to disaster."
It has been commonly theorized that consuming trans-fats like the ones found in fast food could lead to obesity and diabetes, but this is the first such study that has measured what impact it has on the body.
While the trans-fats can stimulate the pancreas to create more insulin for the body, this makes the body more resistant to control the extra amount of this hormone, which can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels. Some have even surmised that trans-fats change the actual composition of cell membrames so they don't react to insulin as they normally would.
Kavanagh admits she does not know how or why the trans-fat-eating monkeys in her study developed larger abdomens.
This study is yet another black eye for trans-fats, which have already been linked to increases in heart disease and cholesterol. However, despite the common belief that all fats are bad (actually, saturated fat can be good for you), that erroneous assumption has now been put to rest. Trans-fat consumption can lead to higher instances of weight gain and the onset of diabetes, but that's not necessarily true with other fats.
Trans-fats are a convenience additive for food manufacturers and fast food companies who want to make the products they create last as long as possible until the consumer decides to purchase the item. As customers continue to demand lower and lower prices, the quality of the foods we eat will continue to be cheapened with ingredients like trans-fats. But the fast-food industry is on the brink of having the deal with this issue head-on as studies like this force them to come face-to-face with the reality that they are contributing to the destruction of public health.
I know, I know, nobody's making people buy these unhealthy products, but fast food companies like McDonald's (remember their big whoops regarding the trans-fats in their French fries earlier this year!) are only paying lip-service to healthy living. Denmark has already banned trans-fats from processed foods and the anti-trans-fat movement is spreading across the United States.
How much longer and how many more people are going to have to become obese and diabetic for people to become outraged enough to do something about the overabundance of trans-fats in our society? This issue will have to come to a head at some point. But will we all die from obesity and diabetes before it can happen?