Q) What are transfats and why are they considered so bad?
A) All fats consist of chain-like molecules. In animal fats these chains are very flexible but the molecules in vegetable oils have rigid kinks, which make them less flexible. The animal fats, with the flexible chains, are solid at room temperature. The vegetable oils, with the more rigid chains, are liquid at room temperature.
About 100 years ago it was discovered that liquid oils could be converted to solid fats by a process called ‘hydrogenation’. Hydrogen was literally added to liquid oil until it became a solid fat (hence why these fats are also called hydrogenated fats). This was done because fat in the solid form is much more useful in food manufacture (you can’t spread sunflower oil on bread easily, but you can use sunflower spread).
After the Second World War the process for making hydrogenated fats from cheaper sources of vegetable oils was widely adopted. Margarines were developed and marketed as alternatives to butter, and vegetable shortenings increasingly replaced the animal fats traditionally used in cooking.
One of the key problems is that there are natural (real) foods and unnatural (artificial) foods for a reason. The artificial hardening of vegetable oils by hydrogenation leads to chains of molecules, which are not natural and cannot be properly digested by the body.
Back as far as 1975, in my local area of South Wales (at what is now known as the University of Glamorgan), a group of scientists (led by Leo Thomas) did some comprehensive research into transfats. They suspected that eating partially hydrogenated fats had a connection with heart disease and this hypothesis was further investigated at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US.
It is now generally accepted that trans-fats are actually worse for our health than the saturated animal fats that they were designed to replace.
In terms of The Harcombe Diet, this is all about real food, so we would never support the consumption of manufactured fats of any kind. Fats recommended in The Harcombe Diet are real fats that humans have been eating for thousands of years – meat, fish, eggs, milk, nuts, seeds and so on.
I hope this helps!
Kind regards – Zoe