Where Did Trans Fats Come From?

Feb 12, 2012

There are naturally occurring trans fats in nature that are actually very good for you like CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid), but this is not the type of trans fat I’m referring to in this post. The trans fat I’m referring to is the chemically altered version that has been shown to increase the chances of cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental disorders, liver dysfunction and infertility.

So here is a quick lesson on how it became mainstream:

William proctor and his brother in law James Gamble were in the soap and candle industry. In the early 1900’s electricity was affecting the purchase of candles and oil so they needed to find an alternative to oil. At the same time meat regulation had just taken place and prices of meat and lard was on a rise. Which led to the idea that “if people aren’t going to burn it, why not get them to eat it?”

In 1907 Proctor & Gamble had already acquired a new food processing technology from Germany called hydrogenation and made their way into the cottonseed business. Hydrogenation is a process of taking hydrogen gas under high pressure and high heat along with a metal catalyst in order to convert or stiffen liquid. Basically it converts a liquid oil into a waxy hardened substance. The big idea was to stiffen liquid unsaturated oils into solids, saturated fats – replacing lard.

Then in 1911 came the new finished product “Crisco” (crystallized cottonseed oil) a white waxy like substance that resembles lard followed by a marketing campaign to convince the public that Crisco was superior to lard in all aspects of cooking. The hydrogenation process gave birth to a mutated and dangerous fatty acid that we now find in so many products with the name trans fats.

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