CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in processed foods contain trans fatty acids that interfere with the regulation of blood flow. A new report reveals a new way in which these "trans fats" gum up the cellular machinery that keeps blood moving through arteries and veins.
In the August 2009 issue of the international journal Atherosclerosis, University of Illinois emeritus veterinary biosciences professor Fred Kummerow reports for the first time that trans fats interfere with more than one key enzyme in the regulation of blood flow.
Kummerow begins by describing the two main causes of heart disease sudden blood clots in the coronary arteries, and atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries to the point where it interferes with blood flow.
"The arteries of someone who dies from atherosclerosis look like old scrub boards as a result of the formation of plaques," Kummerow said. "They look corrugated, and this plaque buildup continues to the point where it will stop blood flow."
Trans fats contribute to both of these causes of heart disease, Kummerow said.
Trans fats are made through hydrogenation, which involves bubbling hydrogen through hot vegetable oil, changing the arrangement of double bonds in the essential fatty acids in the oil and "saturating" the "unsaturated" carbon chain with hydrogen. Because double bonds are rigid, altering them can straighten or twist fat molecules into new configurations that give the fats their special qualities, such as the lower melting point of margarine that makes it creamy at room temperature.
Kummerow, 94, has spent nearly six decades studying lipid biochemistry, and is a long-time advocate for a ban on trans fats in food.
While the body can use trans fats as a source of energy for maintenance and growth, Kummerow said, trans fats interfere with the body's ability to perform certain tasks critical to good health. Because the
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign