Probably the greatest danger of trans fats is one that is not often discussed – it is the effect of trans fats in distorting the cell membranes as well as cell structures.
Most articles about the dangers of trans fats talk about their role in raising cholesterol or, more specifically. in raising LDL or bad cholesterol and lowering HDL or good cholesterol, resulting in heart disease. This is something that most people can understand and identify with.
Likewise, many articles talk about the links between trans fats and obesity, trans fats and diabetes as well trans fats and cancer. These are the more visible and dramatic effects.
The effect on cell membranes, however, is possibly the most significant danger of trans fats – because when the cells are affected, every part of the body is affected.
This has wide implications for a whole long list of body systems and functions, including immunity and brain function. Plus, it has implications for the more commonly discussed dangers of trans fats in causing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and so on.
For example, the effect of trans fats on cell membranes makes them interfere with insulin receptors that are responsible for control of blood sugar. And this leads to diabetes.
Likewise, the danger of trans fats in causing cancer also has to do with cells distorted by trans fats not being able to function properly.
Cell membranes & Trans Fat
In a healthy individual, the cell membranes are made up of about 50 percent saturated fat. The saturated fats maintain the integrity of our cell membranes, keeping them stiff yet flexible.
This ensures that the cells function smoothly in assimilating nutrients, eliminating toxins and keeping out viruses – which are actually harmless unless and until they enter our cells. On their own, viruses are unable to multiply and they will not cause any disease.
Here’s where the danger of trans fats comes in.
People who eat large amounts of margarine and other foods containing trans fats, have been found with cell membranes that contain up to 20 percent trans fats.
In such individuals, the cell walls have lost their integrity, becoming distorted and weak.
In Fats That Can Save Your Life, Robert Erdmann, Robert, Ph.D., writes that when the integrity of cell membranes is reduced, the lungs, digestive tract, and internal cells wind up “admitting allergens, undigested foods, viruses, and even potential carcinogens.”
Trans Fat Auto immune disease
Another possible danger of trans fats is that if the integrity of cells is too badly damaged, to the point where the cell membranes do not interact chemically as they should, the body’s immune system may no longer recognizes them.
This could lead to auto immune diseases, whereby the immune system attacks the body’s own cells.
Brain cells & Trans Fats
The brain is one fatty organ, comprising about 70 percent fat. And trans fats may have an adverse effect on the brain and nervous system.
Studies show that trans fats in the diet are incorporated into brain cell membranes, including the myelin sheath that insulates neurons that play a role in the sending of communication signals. Thus, trans fats may alter the ability of neurons to communicate. This can diminished mental performance.
Yet another danger of trans fats for the brain is the effect of trans fats on Omega 3.
Scientists now know that Omega 3, an essential fatty acid, is vital for brain development and brain function. Trans fats are known to deplete the body’s store of Omega 3 as well as its utilisation.
Because of the danger of trans fats in affecting brain development, some researchers are exploring a possible link between trans fats and autism, as well as other functional and developmental disorders such as ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Right now there is no scientific proof that trans fats cause autism. Some people have ridiculed the theory, but others feel it merits further investigation.
Danger of trans fats – cumulative poisons
Finally, the fact that trans fats build up in the cell membranes also mean that they are only slowly broken down by the body and are difficult to excrete. This makes them cumulative poisons that stay inside us for a long time.