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Unsaturated Hydrocarbons

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Beware the Trans Fat

Beware the Trans Fat

Credit: Food and Drug Administration
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nutrition_label.gif
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Food labels must show if they contain trans fat. That’s because trans fat is a serious health hazard. How does trans fat differ from other fats, and what makes it dangerous? Keep reading to find out. Your health may depend on it!

Why It Matters

  • Trans fat is artificial fat made from vegetable oil. It consists of unsaturated fatty acids that have been partially hydrogenated (given extra hydrogen atoms). Trans fatty acids are isomers of naturally occurring fatty acids. This means that they have the same atoms but the atoms are arranged differently.
  • Trans fat makes food taste good. It also givesfood a longer shelf life.In addition, trans fat is cheap.For all these reasons, trans fat has been added to thousands of foods, particularly fried foods, processed foods, and baked goods.
  • Unfortunately, trans fat in the diet contributes to clogged arteries, high cholesterol, and heart disease. It’s estimated that trans fat is responsible for 30,000 American deaths a year. No amount of trans fat in the diet is considered to be safe.
  • Watch this video to learn more about trans fat and its health effects: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pp0nc4kY-tc

What Do You Think?

Read the article about trans fatat the link below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. Describe how trans fat is made.
  2. How does the structure of trans fat differ from that of a natural fatty acid?
  3. Relate the structure of trans fat molecules to their properties in food and in the body.
  4. By law, packaged foods must be labeled with their trans fat content per serving. Foods labeled with 0 grams of trans fat actually may have up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. What is a more reliable way to determine if a food contains trans fat?
  5. Besides reading food labels, what are some tips for reducing your intake of trans fat in foods?
  6. What happened after trans fat was banned in New York City?
  7. Some people said that New York City went too far in banning trans fat. What do you think? Should trans fat be banned by law? Why or why not?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Food and Drug Administration; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nutrition_label.gif; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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