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Trans fats: your health and your wallet
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What other transgressions are trans fats guilty of? They have been linked to increased risks of hypertension, heart attack, stroke and even Alzheimer's disease.

Enig says using liquid polyunsaturated vegetable oils is not a wise alternative because of their rancidity when heated. "The appropriate action for ... government agencies is to encourage a return to stable, healthy saturated fats such as palm oil, coconut oil, tallow and lard in processed and fried foods."

So going forward, we should go backward.

Not all fats are bad. Recent studies show that adding unsaturated fats (such as olive oil or canola oil) to our meals is necessary to help our bodies absorb nutrients in our foods. In fact, eating a salad with regular dressing helps us absorb many more nutrients than we can take in with a fat-free dressing.

An inflammatory response
Dr. Andrew Weil, author of a number of books on nutrition including "Healthy Aging," has big concerns about the American diet. Inflammation seems to be the underlying cause of age-related disease, he says. When inflammation runs amok, it can be expressed in a variety of illnesses, from coronary heart disease to neurodegenerative diseases. The inflammatory process is regulated by hormones -- prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Production of these hormones can be influenced by our diets, he says.

"The most obvious dietary connection to inflammation and the one that has been most publicized concerns fats," Weil writes. "The body synthesizes prostaglandins and leukotrienes from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are essential nutrients. 'Essential' means that our bodies can't make them and we have to get them from our food. We need two classes of PUFAs, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and we require them regularly and in proper ratio. In general, the hormones synthesized from omega-6 fatty acids upregulate inflammation, while those made from omega-3s have an opposite effect."

Next: "... they've seen the trans-fat-free light."
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