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The official website of Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, low carb pioneers and authors of Protein Power.

A 'healthful' trans fat?

Researchers at my alma mater the University of Arkansas reportedly have developed a healthful trans fat. I figured that it wouldn’t take long. Money quote:

By juggling the molecular structure of soy oil, the team of scientists have developed a substance that is rich in conjugated linoleic acid.Andrew Proctor, professor of food science, and graduate student Vishal Jain claim that studies have shown that CLA can give the immune system a boost.

The two scientists have now used the converted oil to produce potato chips that contain high concentrations of CLA.

“It is still important to have a low fat diet and we do not propose increasing the fat intake, but a few chips will provide needed CLA,” said Proctor. [Italics in the original]

Jesus wept. There we go with the idea that fat is bad. He doesn’t propose increasing fat intake, and he recommends that people eat only a few of these chips. Do tell. I almost never eat potato chips, but when I do, I don’t eat just a few. I would assume that most people do the same.

He goes on.

“Our goal is to develop a popular food item that offers high concentrations of CLA without increasing saturated fat intake.

“Potato chips suit this purpose well. Subsequent studies may include development of high-CLA salad oils and dressings.”

Without increasing saturated fat, eh. We certainly need to worry about that.

What the article doesn’t address is what the particular isomers are of this converted from soy oil CLA. Isomers are different structural configurations of the same molecule. For example, your hands are what are called optical or stereo isomers–they are the mirror image of one another. The same thing holds with chemicals. There are two kinds of glucose, a left-handed glucose and a right-handed glucose. They are the mirror image of one another. The human body uses the right-handed version, d-glucose, but can’t use the left-handed l-glucose at all even though its chemical formula is exactly the same. Having the cells try to use l-glucose would be like trying to put your left hand into a right-hand glove.

Studies have shown health benefits accruing from the consumption of CLA (which is a substance produced by animals and found in meat and dairy), but only when the CLA is a specific isomer. The wrong isomers have been shown to cause problems or, at the very least, not be helpful.

I can see the world taking to this new, factory-produced CLA only to discover after a decade that it is an isomer that causes major health problems. Then will come the cries to ban it.

7 Comments

  1. Cindy Moore on January 3, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    I can see this!!! Yea….it’s artificial, so it’s gotta be better than natural….and it’s not animal, so we KNOW it’s better for us….and it’s soy!!! The wonder food!!!

    Amazing, isn’t it? Replace a perfectly natural, essential food with something artificial!!! Do they not learn from their mistakes????

    Eh….I’ll stick with my REAL sat fats!!!

    Of note, I’ve never been much of a fan of chips…even when I was young, chips and fries really didn’t move me much….now chocolate, that’s a different matter. Anyway…there is one chip, KC Masterpiece that I could eat anytime, anyplace. And yes….it’s tough to eat just one…one bag in some cases!

    Hi Cindy–

    KC Masterpiece, eh?  I’ll have to keep an eye out for those.  Just what I need: another junk food to tempt me.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  2. Malcolm on January 4, 2007 at 7:52 am

    Mike, presumably the naturally occurring trans fat isomers ARE healthy (or healthier?) due to long term adaptation (a couple of million years of meat eating should do it!) – whereas any artificially created trans fat may cause problems unless it has identical structure and properties to something our bodies would recognize and could utilise?

    ‘We’ had a brief discussion about this a while back (if you have the time to look – and I quite understand if you don’t)
    Cheers,

    Malcolm

    Hi Malcolm–

    Presumably the natural CLA isomers are the healthy ones.  There are several, all with long numbered names, that I, as I shuffle off into my dotage, can never remember.  At some point I will pull out the papers I have earmarked on the subject and do a proper post.

    I did read the discussion.  Interesting.  Nice forum, too.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  3. Scott Kustes on January 4, 2007 at 11:29 am

    One day people may realize that we can’t best Mother Nature. Artificial sweeteners, fake fats…none of those are as healthful as the real variety (and obviously natural sweeteners aren’t exactly healthful, but at least they aren’t man-made chemicals). Oh well, we have to keep the Center for Science in the Public Interest going somehow.

    Hi Scott–

    How true, how true.  As the old ad says, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  4. John on January 4, 2007 at 9:01 am

    This is not a personal comment against you Dr. Eades and your excellent blog, but I noticed you used the word ‘healthful’.

    The word is a pet peeve of mine, it’s such a marketing term that’s pervading the healthcare industry. Even Loren Cordain uses it freely now.

    Surely the word we already have, ‘healthy’, suffices in all cases? To try and merge an adjective into the term to make it sound stronger makes me cringe. It’s so gimmicky.

    Otherwise keep up the excellent work! Your blog is a great read each morning and I’m grateful for your time and efforts.

    Hi John–

    Aha! You have stepped right into one of my pet peeves: the correct verses incorrect use of ‘healthy’ and ‘healthful.’ People misuse these two words all the time, saying one when they mean the other. In fact, healthy has been used incorrectly so often that people mistakenly believe that the incorrect use is the correct one.

    Healthy is an adjective meaning possessing good health. I am healthy, my wife is healthy, if I take krill oil it will make me healthy (or healthier).

    Healthful is an adjective meaning producing or promoting good health. Krill oil is healthful, exercise is healthful, a low-carb diet is healthful.

    I am healthy because of my healthful low-carb diet.

    In this post, the artificially produced trans fats are – we hope – healthful. Trans fats themselves I don’t suppose can be healthy. (Note: the incorrect use of ‘hopefully’ as in ‘artificially produced trans fats are hopefully healthful’ is another of my pet peeves. Trans fats can’t be ‘full of hope,’ which is the definition of ‘hopefully.’)

    I just went back to see where I used ‘healthful’ in the post and noticed to my horror that I used ‘healthy’ in the title, which is totally incorrect and is now changed to ‘healthful.’ Apparently I had copied it over from the actual article , which had it written incorrectly as ‘healthy.’

    It’s very strange that you have written this comment because I almost went into the difference between ‘healthful’ and ‘healthy’ in the post itself. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to do so here.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  5. Paul B. on January 4, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    How about some more irony–wasn’t the ad which said “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” for some sort of margerine? I’m giving away my age but it was back in the 70’s.

    Hi Paul–

    Indeed it was.  It was for New Chiffon Margarine.  The company cratered, but everyone remembers the ads.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  6. Karen J on January 4, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    “You may think it’s butter, but it’s snot”…

    Or worse.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  7. Scott Kustes on January 5, 2007 at 7:43 am

    I don’t remember the ads…oh, I wasn’t born till the end of the 70’s. (Sorry, I had to!) Love the discussion on healthy and healthful. I just paid attention to the difference a few days ago when I saw a quote (which I paraphrase): “My tuna is not healthy. If it were healthy, it would be swimming in the ocean somewhere. Grilled and placed on a bed of spinach, it is healthful.”

    Hi Scott–

    Great example about the tuna.  I’ll use that from now on.  Since you gave it to me, I’ll even forgive you for being born in the 1970s.

    Thanks–

    MRE 

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