Different types of fat (saturated, unsaturated, trans) that can be found in food. Depending on the type of fat one is eating, it affects the body differently. The U.S. government recommends that people's fat intake should be no more than 30% of their daily caloric intake. So if people eat a diet of 2,000 calories a day, then they should eat about 65 grams of fat. However, these estimates do not mention the type of fat that people are eating. Trans fat, found in processed food, is completely different than the unsaturated fats present in unprocessed natural food items. This fat has been altered at the molecular level so that it is a straight chain instead of being bent. This synthetic alteration allows the fat to be solid at room temperature, instead of melting. However, altering the molecule has serious effects on how the body can digest this type of fat and can lead to obesity.
An Interesting Observation
Belgium and Germany lead the world in the highest amounts of fat consumption, with Belgians eating 95 grams of fat per day. These people are far from having the highest obesity rates, though. In fact, Germany has some of the skinniest people in the world. On the other hand, the United States, known for high rates of obesity among its population, is eating a lot less fat, an average of about 65.5 grams of fat per day. This value is very close to what the US government recommends, but it has not helped the country's obesity epidemic. When eating fat, it is not just the amount that counts. If someone is eating a diet high in fat but it consists mostly of unsaturated fatty acids, then they are providing their body with essential nutrients like Omega 3 and Omega 6. These fats help to prevent cardiovascular disease and are important for brain development. Statistics prove that fat, and even sugar, consumption are not good indicators of obesity. The countries listed above do not have a population suffering from weight problems because they are not indulging in as many processed foods. The type of fat in fast food is much more harmful than the types of fat that people consume from "real" food. Trans fat only comes from man-made products and having a diet consisting mostly of processed food is what causes obesity. In Germany, people tend to be more health conscious, so they don't buy as many processed foods as people in the United States. This fact significantly decreases the amount of trans-fat that they are consuming, so their obesity rates are much lower.
The Harm of Processed Fats
Trans fat is created by altering the bonds along the carbon chain of a fatty acid. Instead of having a "kink" (or bend) in the chain of carbon atoms, caused by a double bond, the trans fats remain straight. This modification allows them to stay hard at room temperature because a bend in the chain is what causes lipids like oils to be a liquid. In the past few years, more people are becoming conscious of the harmful effects of trans fats. The body has no use for these fats, and they increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Most countries require for trans fat to be listed on the label of food which helps people to make an informed choice. However, the increasing production of processed foods does not bode well for the population. Processed foods always contain higher levels of sugar and salt, which also contribute to obesity. If the trend continues, obesity levels are only going to increase, and diet-related diseases are going to be the largest risk to the human population.