Trans Fats Increase Your Stroke Risk

How to Avoid Them

Trans fat is a type of fat that has been strongly associated with an elevated risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer.

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We all know that fatty foods are bad for you, but it has become clear that not every type of fat in your diet is equal. Artificially produced trans fats, in fact, don't add any clear benefit to your health at all. If you are interested in getting healthy or staying healthy, it is definitely worth your while to know what trans fats are and learn how you can avoid them.

What Are Trans Fats?

Trans fats are the unhealthiest type of fat you can consume. Another name for trans fats is "partially hydrogenated oils," which refers to the chemical process used to produce them.

The chemical structure of trans fasts actually classifies them as unsaturated fats, which you've likely heard are healthier than saturated fats, but our bodies are not able to properly break down the structure of trans fats during digestion. This can be confusing, but understanding that trans fats are not healthy despite their class is an important distinction.

Where Trans Fats Come From

Trans fats naturally occur in animal products, and it is important to know that consuming these naturally occurring trans fats is not considered harmful. The trans fats to watch for are the ones in artificially produced, pre-packaged foods and commercially prepared deep fried foods. This type of fat is introduced during the manufacturing process to help extend a product's shelf life.

In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration determined that trans fats are not safe for consumption and banned their use in prepared and manufactured foods in the United States.

How Trans Fats Increase Stroke Risk

There is an increase in death from all causes, particularly cardiovascular-related deaths like strokes, associated with a high intake of trans fats.

Trans fats harm your heart health in a few ways:

  • Consuming high levels of trans fats dramatically increases inflammation throughout the body, which predisposes you to stroke-causing blood clots and other heart-related risk factors.
  • Trans fats can damage the inner lining of the blood vessels in the heart and in the brain, which leads to heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and risk for stroke.
  • Trans fats raise your level of harmful LDL cholesterol while decreasing your level of healthy HDL cholesterol. High levels of bad cholesterol are very harmful for the heart.

Measuring Blood Trans Fat Levels

So far, there is not a standard blood test that you can have to measure the level of trans fat in your blood. The current scientific understanding is that it is unhealthy to get trans fats through your diet, particularly in high amounts. But there is not a simple way to test for the buildup of this type of damage or to test for the concentration or quantity of trans fats in your body.

Lowering Your Trans Fats

The FDA has banned the use of trans fats in foods, but the best way to ensure you are fully eliminating artificially produced trans fats from your diet is to completely avoid eating pre-packaged foods, processed foods, and deep-fried foods, and to stop using cooking oils containing trans fats. Making these changes will improve your heart health overall.

A Word From Verywell

With FDA regulations in place, avoiding trans fats in your diet should be easy to do. Limiting unsaturated fats in general and focusing on nutrient-rich, healthy foods can help improve your heart health.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Final determination regarding partially hydrogenated oils (removing trans fats).

  2. American Heart Association. Trans fats.

  3. American Heart Association. The skinny on fats.

Additional Reading

By Heidi Moawad, MD
Heidi Moawad is a neurologist and expert in the field of brain health and neurological disorders. Dr. Moawad regularly writes and edits health and career content for medical books and publications.