Trans fats are found in many commercially-made baked and fried foods, and are extremely unhealthy. But they are particularly dangerous for type 2 diabetes sufferers, as they increase insulin resistance and belly fat.
Trans fats occur naturally in low levels in some foods such as meat and dairy products, but it’s the industrially produced trans fats that are most concerning.
The biggest source is partially hydrogenated oil, which is used in processed biscuits, cakes, pies, pastries and fried foods. The oil is favoured for its stability and long shelf life.
According to medical website HealthLine, trans fats have been linked to increased inflammation, another blow for diabetics. They also lower ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels.
These artificial fats are also thought to increase the risk of coronary heart disease, the UK’s leading cause of death for men and the second most common cause of death for women, after dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The UK food industry has voluntarily reduced the levels of trans fats in recent years, but they have not been banned.
Many brands of peanut butter contain trans fats, masquerading as ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil’ on the label.
The oil makes the peanut butter more spreadable and increases its shelf life.
The recommendation, particularly for diabetics, is to choose a peanut butter that just lists peanuts on the label, or perhaps added salt.
Margarines and other butter substitutes also usually contain some trans fats, though amounts have been significantly reduced in recent years, according to the Association of UK Dietitians.
The British Heart Foundation wants industrial trans fats to be banned and has called on the government to take action.
Until then, they would like clearer labelling of trans fats on food packaging, allowing people to make a more informed choice on what they are consuming.
In the US, food manufacturers must warn consumers if a product contains more than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serve, but there is no legal requirement to do the same here.
Another popular food that has been found to impact those with type 2 diabetes is white bread.
“Eating bread, bagels and other refined-flour foods has been shown to significantly increase blood sugar levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” states HeathLine.
“And this response isn’t exclusive to wheat products. In one study, gluten-free pastas were also shown to raise blood sugar, with rice-based types having the greatest effect.”