Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Study: Trans-Fats Increase Fatness, Insulin Resistance, Risk of Diabetes

For years now the warning bells have sounded about the health risks associated with consuming industrial trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oil) found in margarine, processed foods and fast food. This heart-damaging fat is in the majority of packaged foods in the grocery store - from breads to cake mix and frosting, margarine to cookies, and frozen french fries to prepared convenience foods.

As of January this year, manufacturers were required to disclose the level of trans-fats on nutrition labels, with an exception allowed for servings that contain 0.5g or less of trans-fat. So, even if a label states "zero trans-fats" on the front of the package, the consumer must read the ingredients to determine if small amounts are still present.

With the dangers known, no research can be conducted to investigate the damaging effects in humans in controlled-feeding trials. It would simply be unethical to feed humans large amounts of industrial trans-fats purposely to see what happens. We already know enough to know that such a trial will damage long-term health.

Six years ago, however, researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina began what would be a ground-breaking study in monkeys. The findings, presented at the 66th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association this weekend were, in a word, shocking.

Trans Fat Diet Induces Insulin Resistance in Monkeys was part of the presentations made in the Nutritional Conundrums - What Nutrient Mixes are the Best? program.

In her presentation, Dr. Kylie Kavanagh detailed how her team fed one group of monkeys a diet with 8% of their calories from trans-fats (partially hydrogenated soybean oil) and the other group the same diet sans the trans-fat. At the end of six years, Kavanagh scanned the monkey's arteries, but the thing that really stood out was their bellies. The trans-fat eating monkeys had gained around 7% in weight, while their healthier counterparts had put on just 2%. They also had about a third more flab around their abdomen. "You can see white globs of fat in these guys," Kavanagh said at the meeting.

The trans-fat fed monkeys gained more weight on the same calories as their trans-fat free counterparts!More important - the trans-fat fed monkeys had higher blood glucose levels and were more insulin resistant than the trans-fat free monkeys.

Bottom line - the monkeys fed the trans-fats were well on the road to developing diabetes!

Not only did they gain more weight - they gained more fat and were experiencing insulin resistance.With that higher blood glucose and insulin resistance comes a higher risk for cardiovascular disease too.

Hmmm - will this research help the American Heart Association recall it's book The No-Fad Diet where trans-fat rich foods are included in the sample menus? Will the AHA insist that any food with industrial trans-fats remove its logo from the package?

Will this research finally eliminate the mentality that "everything in moderation" is a good dietary principle?

And lastly, will this research serve as a catalyst for the American Diabetes Association to stop it's promotion that all foods are acceptable for someone with pre-diabetes or diabetes?

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