Arguing Cause Olivia Knutson

Trans Fats Wreak Havoc on the Heart

  • I found this part of my paper to be particularly interesting: I found the whole topic of heart disease to be very intriguing. I had no idea it was the leading cause of death in America.
  • This part was surprisingly difficult: Pinpointing counter arguments was very difficult for me. Determining which is the strongest counter argument and then taking it apart was very challenging because I had to first imagine what that counter argument would be before I attacked it.
  • Next time I would do this differently: I would focus on finding more counter arguments.

According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. The Center for Disease Control reports an average of 600,000 fatalities due to heart disease every year. One in four deaths annually, in America alone, is caused by heart disease. Heart disease surpasses every cause of death including cancer, respiratory disease, and stroke. Heart disease kills approximately 25,000 more people per year than all types of cancers combined. Not only is heart disease taking so many American lives yearly, but 2,200 people die daily from heart disease. That is almost 92 people dying of heart disease every hour in America alone. Not only is heart disease taking precious lives but it is also costing the United States 108.9 billion dollars a year, according to the Center for Disease Control.

We know heart disease kills over half a million people a year, in America. But do we know what causes it? Yes. (Olivia — you don't really need this first sentence. Consider cutting it.) The majority of heart disease is caused by genetics or smoking. When heart disease is genetic there is simply nothing that can be done about it. People who smoke are well aware of the risks of smoking and by continuing smoking they knowingly increase their risk of heart disease and many other health issues. However, a large majority of heart disease is caused by an unhealthy diet.(cite the previous information) Many people do not even know the health risks associated with an unhealthy diet. And I would venture to say that even more people do not understand what constitutes an unhealthy diet. I for one had no idea diet played such a role in heart health, or lack thereof, until I began writing this paper.

If an unhealthy diet greatly increases risk of heart disease what exactly constitutes an unhealthy diet for the heart? An unhealthy diet for the heart consists of several unhealthy components but perhaps the most lethal component is trans fat. Some trans fats occur naturally in food, such as certain types of meat and dairy. However, when found in a natural state, trans fats are in very trace amounts. The real source of trans fats is processed foods. Trans fats are developed through a food processing technique called partially hydrogenating. Partially hydrogenating fat is essentially pumping hydrogen molecules into the liquid fat to turn it into a solid. An article by WebMD explains how the consumption of trans fats became so relevant.

Trans fats seemed like such a good thing once, enhancing the flavor, texture, and shelf life of many processed foods — from cookies to frozen pizza. Unfortunately, they come with a health risk. Trans fatty foods tantalize your taste buds, then travel through your digestive system to your arteries, where they turn to sludge (What Are Trans Fats? Food Sources and Daily Limits).”

The expediency provided by trans fats to the modern food industry and the consumer, long shielded trans fats from the discovery of how unhealthy they can be for the heart.
According another WebMD article, foods particularly high in trans fats are:

Cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and breads such as hamburger buns
Some stick margarine and vegetable shortening
Pre-mixed cake mixes, pancake mixes, and chocolate drink mixes
Fried foods, including donuts, French fries, chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
Snack foods, including chips, candy, and packaged or microwave popcorn
Frozen dinners (What Are Trans Fats? Food Sources and Daily Limits).

This list should terrify readers, so many of the foods on this list are consumed by many Americans on a daily basis. The foods that contain trans fats have become the staples upon which many Americans base their diets. These foods, that so many Americans eat without giving a second thought to the safety of the product, could be leading them to a premature death by heart disease. The better flavor, texture, and shelf life of processed foods containing trans fats has makes them hard for many Americans to give up, even though there has been conclusive evidence supporting the hypothesis that trans fat is a major contributor (to the) increased risk of heart disease. Many Americans may not be fully aware of the consequences of a diet rich in trans fat. And others may just prefer the better shelf life and taste of foods containing trans fat. However, no matter which reason, the fact remains that foods containing trans fats are still being produced and consumed.

The irony of the trans fat issue is that it trans fat was created to protect consumers against the high consumption of butter, which was thought to cause heart disease. However, according to an article from WebMD by Denise Mann, trans fats are worse for the body than the butter they were originally invented to protect us from. Mann estimates that about 40% of all foods on super market shelves contain trans fats. He (are you sure? — Denise seems like a she) also states the reason for the adverse effects of trans fat being; When vegetable oil is turned into a solid, like butter, it acts like butter inside the body (Mann)(is this a direct quote?). In other words trans fat acts as a solidifying artery clogger as soon as it has been consumed. And extensive research has show clogged arteries are a main cause of heart disease. Mann sums up this correlation with this statement:

…trans fats contribute to clogged arteries. Clogged arteries are a sign of heart disease; they increase your risk of both heart attack and stroke. Here's how it works: Trans fats raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol levels. This contributes to the buildup of fatty plaque in arteries (Mann).

Fatty plaques in turn lead to heart disease.

Trans fats have been tested and proven to be so unhealthy for the heart that even the Food and Drug Administration has considered denouncing hydrogenated fats, such as trans fats, as no longer being deemed safe for consumption because of their detrimental effect on the heart. An article by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) quoted executive director of CSPI Michael F. Jacobson with this statement on heart disease and trans fats: “‘Artificial trans fat is a uniquely powerful promoter of heart disease… Not only is artificial trans fat not safe, it's not remotely necessary. Many companies, large and small, have switched to healthier oils over the past decade (FDA Announcement Signals Eventual End to Artificial Trans Fat).’”

Trans fats have been shown to have caused many heart disease fatalities, from the same CSPI article "Harvard’s Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department, estimated that trans fat was causing upwards of 50,000 deaths annually (FDA Announcement Signals Eventual End to Artificial Trans Fat)." This article’s very title states that there will eventually be an end to the fatal intake of trans fats. However, this article was published well over a year ago and people are still being subjected to trans fats in their food. Many unwittingly consume these toxic products. So why are trans fats still being used widely across the food producing industry? They have been proven to have fatal effects and yet Americans are consuming them every day. After you deduct the cases of heart disease caused by genetics, obesity, and smoking, trans fats are certainly a forerunner in the causes of heart disease.

Some would say that trans fats are only one of the lethal ingredients in the average American's diet and the whole combination of sugars, fats, and carbohydrates play the main role in diet leading to heart disease. However, with one statistic that argument can be shown to be a weak one. That one statistic is the increase of heart disease with the advent of hydrogenated fats. “People with high total cholesterol have approximately twice the risk of heart disease as people with optimal levels. A desirable level is lower than 200 mg/dL (Heart Disease Statistics).” This quote from Cardio Smart shows that high cholesterol is a great risk factor for heart disease and high cholesterol has been shown in many studies to have a main source, that main source is trans fat. One such study conducted by Mayo clinic is summed up with this quote “When it comes to fat, trans fat is considered by some doctors to be the worst type of fat. Unlike other fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — both raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol (Mayo Clinic Staff).” To some extent other foods do raise cholesterol but trans fats are definitely a leader in the increase of “bad” cholesterol levels.

Another counter argument that many may have against trans fat causing heart disease is that the lack of physical activity by many Americans contributes more to clogged arteries and an unhealthy heart than trans fat. This argument has credibility, as a lack of exercise can lead to an unhealthy heart. However, even people who lead a very active lifestyle, do not smoke, or have family history of heart disease, and consume trans fats have been known to have heart attacks. In an article by Men Health’s, Jamie Bellavance discusses how even fit, active middle aged men are at risk for heart disease based on lifestyle issues such as diet. Exercise is very important in maintaining heart health however if a person is to exercise daily but still consume trans fats they will still be at risk for heart disease.

Heart disease is caused by many factors but trans fat is one of the factors that can be eliminated. ”Harvard researchers have estimated that banning trans fats from the American diet could prevent some 228,000 heart attacks each year (Dietary Fats Can Help—or Harm—Your Heart).” This quote from an article on Health Magazine’s website, shows that all though trans fats may not be the leading cause of heart disease they are definitely a deadly enemy in Americas ever increasing war with heart disease. By cutting trans fat, from Americans daily diet, we as a society stand to gain much; fewer lives lost every year and less spending on medical needs by both the individual and the government.

Works Cited

“What Are Trans Fats? Food Sources and Daily Limits”. WebMD. 2012. Web. 28 February 2014.
Mann, Denise. “Trans Fats: The Science and the Risks”. WebMD. July 2006. Web. 28 February 2014.
“FDA Announcement Signals Eventual End to Artificial Trans Fat”. Center for Science in the Public Interest. November 2013. Web. 2 March 2014.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Trans fat: Avoid this cholesterol double whammy”. May 2011. Web. 8 March 2014.
Bellavance, Jamie. “The Fit Man's Heart Risk”. n.d. Web. 15 March 2014.

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