We’ve all heard that trans fats aren’t good for us. Some cities have even banned them, and restaurants are starting to eliminate them as well. So let’s chat a bit about the link between trans fat and fertility, or to be more precise, how it may contribute to infertility.
We know trans fats aren’t good for us. Some cities have even banned them, and restaurants are starting to eliminate them as well. Thankfully we’re on track to have man-made trans fats banned here in the US by 2018.
photo credit Leeser
What are trans fats?
From Health and Goodness:
Vegetable oils are generally liquid at room temperature, so how is it that we have margarine made from sunflower oil and corn oil? The process involved in this transformation is called hydrogenation. Food manufacturers want a solid fat that does not go rancid easily and doesn’t have any real taste. Hydrogenation gives them this.
Hydrogenation is a high tech process. Vegetable seeds are cleaned and bleached to remove all color, taste, smells and impurities. The liquid vegetable oil is then heated to high temperatures and a catalyst (commonly nickel, but could be palladium, platinum or rhodium) is added. Hydrogen is bubbled through the liquid. The mixture is then filtered to remove the metal, leaving hydrogenated vegetable oil. Water, whey, salt, vitamins, coloring’s, flavorings and emulsifiers may then be added to produce hydrogenated margarine.
How trans fats affect the body
Trans fat can suppress the activity in cell receptors that are involved in inflammation, glucose metabolism, and insulin sensitivity. A study led by Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that this suppression can lead to low fertility and can also manifest itself as PCOS.
This study was done with 18,555 women who were trying to get pregnant between 1991 and 1999. The risk of infertility rose 73% for every 2% of energy a woman took from trans fats instead of carbohydrates (two percent of energy is equivalent to 4 grams of trans fats per 1800 calories consumed).
And get this, Americans eat (on average) 6 grams of trans fats each day! So you can see how much this might affect women quite drastically. In men, trans fats can decrease testosterone and increase the number of abnormal sperm, which is just one contribution to male factor infertility.
How to avoid trans fats
- Check labels for every food you buy. Even if it says zero trans fats, look for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredient list. If it’s in there, put those chips/ice cream/crackers back on the shelf! (food manufacturers are allowed up to .5 grams of trans fatty acids without mentioning them)
- Don’t fry your foods in vegetable oil. Even normal vegetable oil (which is still not good for you) can turn to trans fat when subjected to high heat. Use more heat stable fats like tallow, lard, and coconut oil – or just skip the fried foods….)
- Focus on whole food sources of fat. These fats are healthy and needed by the body. They include: nuts, avocados, grass fed organic meat, grass fed organic dairy, unrefined coconut oil, butter, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, tallow, and lard among others.
- Avoid shortening and margarine. While butter may have a higher percentage of saturated fat, it contains almost no trans fat (0.03 grams) while stick margarine has 2.1 grams of trans fat. (per Tablespoon)
- Eat more whole foods and less processed foods.
- Buy organic chips/crackers if you must have them, or have children who are used to them. They aren’t allowed to have partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in them.
- Eat out less, as restaurants don’t always disclose an ingredient list with their nutritional information and many offer multiple types of fried foods.
Remember, if anything you pick up off the shelf has hydrogenated oil in it Put. It. Back.