The goal here is to give you the reader a better understanding of each of the different kind of fats that exist.

Dietary fat plays several key roles in the body:

  • It provides flavour to food.
  • It is needed for the intestinal absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E and K.
  • Fat is a key source of metabolic energy, at 9 calories per gram.
  • Components of fat are also important building blocks of all cells in the body.

Next to take to the stand will be Trans Fat charged with increasing blood cholesterol levels and increasing risk of cardio-vascular disease.

Prosecutor:  State your full name for the record?

Defendant:  Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil.  (This oil contains trans-fats)

P: Can you explain this to the Jury please?

D: Hydrogenation is the process of pumping hydrogen through the oil, which makes the oil solid at room temperature.

P: Why do this?

D: The food industry makes me do it!

Objection your honor  –  sustained.

D: The food industry likes to use hydrogenated vegetable oils because of our longer shelf-life, our cheaper price tag, our stability and ability to withstand high temperatures during deep frying and our semi-solidity, which can be altered to enhance the taste and texture of baked goods and sweets.

P: What food products do you get involved with?

D: Deep fried fast foods, bakery products, packaged snack foods, margarines, biscuits, cookies, crackers, microwave popcorn, frozen dinners, pies and pastries.

P: Are you completely artificial or do you exist naturally also?

D: I exist naturally, albeit in small amounts.  The bacteria in the gut of ruminant animals like cows and sheep cause the transformation of unsaturated fat into trans-fat and can subsequently be found in the meat and milk of these animals.

P: What percentage of these products do you make up?

D: Well, dairy and beef fat typically contains around 3-6% trans-fat (TF) of the percentage total fat, with higher levels found in mutton and lamb. I make up around 1-17% of the fat in soft yellow spreads.  In bakery products, I can vary from below 1% up to 30% of the total fat.  French Fries, soup powders, sweet and snack products have been shown to contain high TF levels (20-40%).

P:  In your artificial form, to your knowledge, do you know of any health benefits you have to the public at large?

D: I do not have any health benefits in my artificial form.

P: And do you have any negative effects to your knowledge?

D: Yes

P: Can you elaborate please?

D: Studies have shown a dose-response relationship between dietary TF’s and LDL-Cholesterol.  Another large study that looked at the effects of substituting TF intake for carbohydrate calories and demonstrated a LDL-Cholesterol raising effect that was similar to Saturated Fat, however, unlike saturated fat, Trans fat did not raise HDL-Cholesterol  (the good kind).  Therefore resulting in the conclusion that TF lowers good HDL-cholesterol compared to Saturated fat and consequentially increases the LDL-cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol ratio, which is a strong independent risk factor of cardiovascular disease.

P: Have you not just admitted the charge placed against you today?

D: In one sense, yes.  I cannot deny those charges against me, however, may I make a statement to the jury before they make their decision.

The food industry, globally, has been responding to these scientific findings by lowering the amounts of hydrogenated oil which contains TF in foods.

A Food Safety Authority of Ireland survey in 2007 of 100 pre-packaged foods confirms this.  In fact, 57% of the products surveyed contained No detectable Trans Fat and 23% contained low levels of TF (2% of total fat being TF).

I would also like to state that in my natural form, I do not have such negative effects on blood cholesterol unlike my industrial produced hydrogenated oils.  Of the 23% products containing low levels of TF in the survey, 15 samples contained hydrogenated oil, but 8 samples were of animal origin with no hydrogenated oil.

I would also like to add, if I may, 97% of the food product samples provided nutritional info that was compliant with  the labeling requirement for Nutritional Information and so allows the public to make informed choices in the foods they purchase.


Judge: Will the defendant please rise.  Has the Jury reached an unanimous verdict?

Jury: Yes your honor.  We the members of the jury find the defendant Guilty.

Judge: Due to your honesty during the court case and your evidence based statement around the food industry’s acknowledgment of the negative health effects of hydrogenated oil and dedication to significantly reducing the amount of hydrogenated oil in today’s food products, I shall show leniency towards your sentence.   I hereby impose on you a suspended sentence of 18 months imprisonment, with the chance to wipe your slate clean over the next two years by continuing your reformed ways.  If I happen to see your head pop up in any cakes or cookies in the future, you will be back under my nose the very next morning for sentencing.

Thanks for reading.

John Phelan

Physio & Nutritionist