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Trans fat is produced by a process called hydrogenation in which polyunsaturated oils are subjected to hydrogen gas at high pressure and temperature in the presence of metal particles, usually nickel oxide. Emulsifiers and starch are added to the mixture to improve the consistency. To remove the unpleasant smell in the product, it is steam cleaned under high temperatures. In the case of products like margarine, the mixture is also bleached to remove the unnatural gray color, and artificial flavoring and coloring is used to make it more appealing. Trans fat is widely found in the oils in which many types of fast foods are fried in.  Why?  Not only can trans fat be repeatedly heated, it can withstand the high temperatures in deep fryers and help products remain fresh and even look better. Food manufacturers use trans fat because they increase the shelf life of the products. [1]
However, trans fat can clog up your arteries and cause heart attacks. It is associated with many diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, liver dysfunction, diabetes, immune dysfunction, birth defects, impaired vision, sterility, and weak bones and tendons. [2] According to Jeffrey Aron, MD, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, "Putting trans fats into your body is like dropping fine grains of sand into a Swiss watch. Eventually, the system shuts down." [3]
In the 1990s, research showed that trans fat not only increase our 'bad' (LDL) cholesterol, but also reduce our 'good' (HDL) choleterol. Eating a teaspoon of trans fat-rich margarine a day would most likely increase a man's chance of heart attack by 10%. According to the famed Framingham Heart Study. "Generally, the harder the margarine, the more trans fat. Trans fat-rich margarines are twice as bad as butter". [4]
How much trans fat is tolerated in our bodies? The American Heart Association recommends that we consume not more than 2 grams of trans fat a day. Bearing in mind that naturally occuring trans fats are present in some meat and diary products, most people already reach this limit. [5] Therefore, it is prudent not to have any intake of processed trans fat at all.
In the U.S., food labels are allowed to show zero trans fat if the amount per serving is less that 0.5 grams. This means that a package with a label showing zero trans fat or 'trans fat free' may contain as much as 0.49g of trans fat. So you may be consuming 0.49 grams of trans fat even if the label says trans fat free, and if you eat two or more servings, you work out the arithmetic yourself. In Singapore, it is not mandatory for food labels to show the amount of trans fat. [6] However, NTUC FairPrice had voluntarily labeled some products as "Trans Fat Free". [7] Does this help? Not really; unless the exact amount of trans fat present in the package is shown.
By now, you are probably confused about trans fat, but help is at hand. A WebMD feature archive article "Top Ten Food With Trans Fat" provides information on how to avoid those food high in trans fat: magarine, packaged food such as cake mixes, soups in ramen and soup cups, fast food, frozen food, baked food, chips and crackers, breakfast cereal and energy bars, cookies and candies, toppings and dips.
[8]
Good luck and good health.

Enjoy your second half life.  This is your last chance!

Sources:
1. Trans Fat 101, Feature Story, University of Maryland Medical Center
2. Vin Miller, Trans Fat: What the Food Industry Want to Hide From You, Natural Bias
3. What are Trans Fats and why should you make every effort to stay away from them, Vita Recipes
4. From the Fat Front, US Weekend Magazine, March 3, 2002 Issue.
5. Ten Surprising Foods That Contain Trans Fat, The Calorie Counter
6. Why Singapore refuses trans fat labeling?, Stop Trans Fat
7. Yvonne Yong, NTUC FairPrice to label trans fat products and promote healthier living, ChannelNewsAsia.com, 07 January 2007
8. WebMD Feature Archive article Top Ten Food With Trans Fat

Disclaimer: This posting is not meant to provide health advice and is for general information only. Always seek qualified health-care professional's assistance before embarking on any health program.

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