"What's the big deal about trans fat?" We hear that question a lot from people who enjoy their fast food fries or other foods high in these problematic fats. Unfortunately, the answer is that trans fats, when regularly ingested in high amounts, place us at risk for significant illness including heart disease by increasing levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and increasing inflammation in the body. There have been concerns that high trans fat intake might also be a risk factor for cancer, but evidence has been lacking - until now. A recent study out of the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that people who ate the most foods high in trans fats were also at greatest risk for colon polyps, lesions that are considered pre-cancerous.
Trans fats are vegetable oils that have been altered through a process called partial hydrogentaion. This helps make foods solid at room temperature and gives them a longer shelf life. Trans fats have been used in many baked goods, and are found in many of the menu options available at fast food restaurants. The good news is that the food industry has responded to the health risks associated with these troublesome fats by moving away from trans fats. Food labels now must list trans fat content, making the reading of food labels all the more important for your health and that of your family. In addition, Harris Teeter's Wellness Keys readily point out many products that are "trans fat free."
As you consciously move away from foods containing trans fats, be sure you don't overdo intake of saturated fat (and sugar). Recall that it's the type of fat that determines its effect on our health. The healthiest fats include monounsaturated fats (as found in olive oil) and omega-3 fatty acids (as found in cold water fish and ground flax seed).
Other ways to lessen your risk for colon cancer? Stay active (plenty of exercise) and work to make vegetables and fruits a central part of your family's diet.
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