Friday, February 2, 2007

Should we be terrified by interesterified fats?

"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind," wrote Joseph Heller in Catch-22, yet it seemed absurd to his compatriots that the lead character, Yossarian, would worry about being killed in a war when it was clear that he was indeed being shot at. It's the way I'm beginning to feel about nutrition and my efforts to avoid all the edible landmines with which the government allows us to be carpet-bombed.

To prove it's not a simple case of paranoia, the new alternative to Trans Fats, interesterified fats, may turn out to be as dangerous a hybrid as trans fats only without the required labeling. The only way to dodge this new sludge may be to avoid processed food all together. Unless you're bulletproof, that would seem to be the conclusion of a rational mind in the face of dangers that are real and immediate. Yet why do I get the idea that many people would find the idea of giving up convenience food absurd in spite of the peril?

The Findings of a study appeared online recently in a ScienceDaily article entitled 'New Fat, Same Old Problem With An Added Twist?'. As the article explains, the process of interesterification hydrogenates fats and then rearranges the molecules. That doesn't sound scary at all. Consumption of the fats, it explains, "adversely affected human metabolism of lipoproteins and glucose, compared to an unmodified, natural saturated fat. Interesterification to generate a stearic acid-rich fat is fast becoming the method of choice to modify fats in foods that require a longer shelf life because this process hardens fat similar to oils containing trans-fatty acids."

"In this study we discovered that trans fat also has a weak negative influence on blood glucose. The newer replacement for trans, so-called interesterified fat, appears even worse in that regard, raising glucose 20 percent in a month," explained biologist and nutritionist K.C. Hayes, who collaborated on the research with Dr. Kalyana Sundram, nutrition director for palm oil research at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board in Kuala Lampur.

"This is the first human study to examine simultaneously the metabolic effects of the two most common replacement fats for a natural saturated fat widely incorporated in foods. As such, it is somewhat alarming that both modified fats failed to pass the sniff test for metabolic performance relative to palm olein itself," noted Sundram.

And you're surprised why?