Part #2: Preservatives and Trans Fats

May 16, 2012

Thinking Beyond The Wrapper

Back in the old days, food was preserved by salt, sugar, honey, wood smoke, and vinegar. Now chemicals are used to preserve food, many of them being detrimental to a person’s health. Why? Because when these chemicals come in contact with our digestive systems, our bodies don’t know what to do with them. The body reacts to these chemicals by eliminating or storing them somewhere. The results are then played out by disease: allergic reactions and breast cancer, to name a few.

Consider this true story of a lady who kept a McDonald’s cheeseburger sitting out for an entire year, unwrapped and unrefrigerated. By the end of a year, she observed that other than the bun getting a little stale, the hamburger was visibly unaltered. No mold. No maggots. Nothing. It should really make one wonder about what is actually in fast food burgers. What chemicals present deterred even the bacteria, mold, and maggots from eating it (Schmidt)?

Now let’s consider some examples of these preservatives, and what exactly they do to your body. Take nitrates, for example. This chemical is used to prolong the shelf life of many foods. Upon being ingested in the body, nitrates are converted to nitrites. These nitrites react with hemoglobin, a substance which carries oxygen in the red blood cells. This reaction produces methemoglobin, a substance which prevents the transportation of oxygen in the red blood cells. Think about how dangerous this can be. Lack of oxygen to the cells can lead to loss of consciousness and even death! (Traister).

Why is this allowed, you might wonder. Food manufactures argue that because these preservatives are consumed in such insignificant quantities, it is really not so dangerous. But when you think of the 3,000 types of additives out there and how many of those people consume daily, this is indeed a dangerous risk to take.

Now switch gears for a while as we cover the issue of trans fats. Let’s start with what they are, exactly. They are basically a man-made fat. Trans fats are produced when manufactures convert liquid oils into solid fat by the process of hydrogenation. This is accomplished by adding hydrogen atoms to oil. What is so bad about that?

Trans fats pose a dangerous threat to the heart. Think about how blood travels in the arteries to and from the heart, delivering oxygen and nutrients to every cell in you body. Trans fats raise the level of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. This leads to a buildup of “fatty plaque” in the arteries. The arteries becoming clogged, blocking the flow of blood. Eventually, when the blood supply to the heart is cut off, this often leads to heart attacks and death. Studies have shown that trans fats have a greater affect on the heart than people realize. For example, a study conducted by Nurse’s Health Study, showed the women who consumed the highest amounts of trans fats were 50% more likely to have a heart attack than those who consumed the least amounts of this fatty substance (Mann).

According to an article written by Reader’s Digest, research is showing that trans fats are twice as harmful to the body as saturated fats, and they cause 30,000 to 100,000 premature heart disease deaths every single year! By replacing trans fats with good fats, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to an incredible 53 percent! Simply watch out for words such as “partially hydrogenated,” “fractionated,” or “hydrogenated” on the ingredients lists. (Reader’s Digest).

Foods containing trans fats are dangerous to eat, and should be avoided. Of course, not all fats are bad. Indeed, many are beneficial to the body. Healthy fat sources include olive oil, canola oil, and coconut oil. Also, the high content of fat found in avocados and nuts benefit the body in a number of ways.

***Stay tuned for the last part about artificial sweeteners! Until then, have a wonderful week! :)

Schmidt, Doug. “Zombie cheeseburger? McDonald’s patty, bun, cheese unchanged after one year sitting on kitchen counter.” nationalpost.com. 2011. Web. Accessed 16 Apr. from <http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/12/29/zombie-cheeseburger-mcdonalds-patty-bun-cheese-unchanged-after-one-year-sitting-on-kitchen-counter/?__lsa=d5d78f6e>

Traister, Jeffrey. “What Preservatives Cause Disease?” LiveStrong.com. 2010. Web .Accessed 16 Apr.  2012 from <http://www.livestrong.com/article/315306-what-preservatives-cause-diseases/>

Mann,Denise. “TransFats:TheScienceandtheRisks.” WebMD.Web.Accessed11Apr.2012from <http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/trans-fats-science-and-risks>

Reader’sDigest. “4MostHarmfulIngredientsinPackagedFoods.” Reader’sDigest(rd.com).2012. Web.Accessed6Apr.2012from <http://www.rd.com/health/4-most-harmful-ingredients-in-packaged-foods/3/>


  • Reply


    May 17, 2012

    This is very interesting! That is totally disgusting about the McDonalds hamburger, though. I’ve never liked eating hamburgers at McDonalds, and now I am determined to eat as few of those as possible during my lifetime! :) I sure wish that we’d use the “old days” way of preserving food. Thanks for this informative fourth of an article! :)


  • Reply


    May 23, 2012

    YUCK!!!!! I never want to eat another McDonald’s cheeseburger as long as I live! Food Inc. already convinced me of this, but now I’m doubly grossed out! :) :)

Leave a Reply