“With the high level of processed food now being consumed in the Western world, it is perhaps no surprise that diseases such as depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), which are now so strongly linked with low levels of essential fatty acids, are on the increase.” – Dr. Basant Puri
Mention fats and most people automatically think of unhealthy ones which we should try to eliminate or reduce in our diet. However, good fats also exist and these play an important role in the functioning of our bodies.
Professor Basant Puri - a world renowned researcher and consultant at Hammersmith Hospital in London who pioneered the use of natural fatty acids to treat patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and depression and who visited Ireland recently - believes trans fats or harmful fats in foods should be outlawed in the same way as smoking in the workplace has been in this country.
Trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, are a specific type of fat formed when liquid oils are made into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine. (A small amount of trans fats are found naturally, mainly in some animal-based foods.)
Trans fats, which are considered to be the most harmful to people’s health, behave like saturated fat by raising low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol which increases your risk of coronary heart disease. They can be found in some of the same foods as saturated fat, such as vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, sweets, biscuits, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
“Ireland has been to the forefront in leading the way on many health issues," says Professor Puri. “I believe that its decision to ban smoking in the workplace has been an astounding success. I can personally verify this during my recent visits to Dublin. As I’m a non-smoker, I visited a fine dining restaurant and I was delighted to experience first-hand, the benefits of a smoke-free environment. I also can recall their lead in banning hormones, thus removing hormone-treated animals from the food chain. This gave them the edge in marketing their beef across Europe free of residue.”
Now, he feels this country should take action against trans fats. “I believe Ireland should move with Denmark regarding these fats, if not banning products with them, at the very least introducing legislation requiring food manufacturers to state the amount of trans fats in their products so that the public can make an informed choice. I believe we should press for similar legislation in the UK.”
Professor Puri - the author of over 25 books, including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A natural way to treat ME, and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Natural Way to Treat ADHD (both published by Hammersmith Press) - advises people to avoid trans fats if possible. He says they actively reduce the nutrient value of essential fatty acids. “With the high level of processed food now being consumed in the Western world, it is perhaps no surprise that diseases such as depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), which are now so strongly linked with low levels of essential fatty acids, are on the increase.” [For a linked list of the scores of research articles and books Dr. Puri has written on CFS and the relationship between essential fatty acid intake and a variety of diseases, go to the Imperial College Website http://www1.imperial.ac.uk/medicine/people/basant.puri/publications/ ]
He says our bodies do not know how to deal with trans fats, some of which can end up taking the place of “good fatty acids” in cell membranes. This makes cell membranes harder and more inflexible, and may exacerbate brain diseases such as ADHD, depression and ME. Trans fats are also likely to increase heart disease. The manufactured artificial trans fats in our modern diets are probably doing us a great deal of harm. They are found in many foodstuffs containing hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as most cakes, pastries and biscuits and in deep-fried foods and many margarines.”
How are the trans fats manufactured? “To give one example, when making margarine, vegetable oils are industrially changed to turn them into solids at room temperature. This process is known as hydrogenation and the result is hydrogenated vegetable fat. Unfortunately the industrial processes involved cause the fatty acids in the vegetable oil to be turned into strange molecules called trans fats.”
Professor Puri recommends that people avoid products that have trans fats added to them by food manufacturers. “This does not mean you have to abstain from all cakes, biscuits etc – alternatives include cakes and biscuits made with butter rather than hydrogenated vegetable oil.”
Reversing the adverse effects of trans fats
He says people can help reverse some of the adverse effects of trans fats by taking a good omega supplement. He recommends one with a particularly high level of EPA - eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil – as well as a special form of evening primrose oil, known as virgin evening primrose oil. EPA has anti-viral properties and helps with sleep, also. “The one supplement currently available to the general public [in the UK that includes both these ingredients in one formulation is sold under the brand name VegEPA.]”
He says omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are very important to the proper functioning of our bodies, as they maintain the correct structure of cell membranes.
The professor is calling on governments to take action in relation to trans fats. “Governments should act and introduce legislation requiring all food manufacturers to state the amount of trans fats used in their products.”
What are trans fats?
Trans fats (also known as trans fatty acids) are a specific type of fat formed when liquid oils are made into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine.
Where are they found?
Trans fat can be found in some of the same foods as saturated fat, such as vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, sweets, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.Trans fat behaves like saturated fat by raising low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
How are they formed?
Trans fat is formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, a process called hydrogenation. This increases the shelf life and flavor of foods containing these fats.
* Reproduced with kind permission from an article published in The Kilkenny Advertiser, Ireland, the week of October 9, 2006 http:www.kilkennyadvertiser.ie .
Note that some of professor Basant Puri’s recent research work regarding ME/CFS and fatty acid metabolism is cited in our newsletter article “Evening primrose oil, now gathering respect for its support of healthful cellular functioning, is of special interest for ME/CFS and FM patients.”