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Trans fats and allergy, atopic disorders and other adverse reactions

Trans fats in the diet are known to be responsible for predisposing people to general atopic disorders, or allergies. Personal evidence received by tfX - reproduced below - also shows that many people suffer direct allergic and other adverse reactions resulting directly from the consumption of hydrogenated oil, displaying a wide variety of symptoms.

This intolerance to HVO seems to be a widespread phenomenon - and in all probability the overwhelming majority of sufferers have no idea as to the cause of their problems. If you can help, or have experienced anything like this that you would like to contribute to this page, please contact us.

Trans fats and atopic disorders

Several scientific studies have shown that hydrogenated oil in the diet is a factor pre-disposing to allergy or what doctors know as "atopic" disorders. We quote below from the Danish Nutrition Council report The influence of trans fatty acids on health

1.4 Trans fatty acids and allergy

The increased incidence of hay fever, atopic disorders and asthma in Europe is associated with the spread of the Western lifestyle (51). In an international study of asthma and allergies in childhood (ISSAC) from 1998, the incidence of asthma, allergic cold and asthmatic eczema in children aged 13-14 years was investigated in 155 centres around the world. A positive association was found between the intake of trans fatty acids and these diseases. Such an association was not observed for the intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (52, 53). The above-mentioned results do not allow any conclusion concerning recommendations for dietary levels of trans fatty acids in relation to the incidence of allergic diseases, but provide a basis for further studies.

51. von Mutius E, Weiland S K, Fritzsch C, Duhme H, Keil U. "Increasing prevalence of hay fever and atopy among children in Leipzig, East Germany". Lancet 1998; 351: 862.
52. Weiland S K, von Mutius E, Hüsing A, Asher M I, on behalf of the ISAAC Steering Committee. "Intake of trans fatty acids and prevalence of childhood asthma and allergies in Europe". Lancet 1999; 353: 2040-1.
53. The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) Steering Committee. "Worldwide variation in prevalence of symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, and atopic eczema": ISAAC. Lancet 1998; 351: 1225-32.

Hot flushes

I have, over the last 18 months to 2 years avoided trans fats to the best of my ability and with remarkable results. My family all feel much better for dropping this poison from our diets but the main thing I've noticed is the following : I'll try to keep it brief.

I'm 43 reasonably fit, not overweight and don't drink to excess, for the last 8 years I sufferred with the most horrendous hot flushes, my doctor thought at the age of 36, I was menopausal! - I was getting 20 plus flushes a day as well as night sweats. Trust me its not nice, you feel sick, exhausted and incredibly uncomfortable. I was referred to the hospital last year for what turned out to be an unneccessary bone density scan, they told me that I wasn't menopausal and never had been - but didn't know what was causing the symptoms .

Today I get don't get any symptoms and haven't for at least 3 months now. Try telling me that was just a coincidence, I need no studies to know what was causing those symptoms, the flushes didn't suddenly stop, they gradually decreased, nothing else has changed just the exclusion of trans fats.

I understand that you cannot "publish" my results as fact but you could make the 'suggestion' on your website, or simply tell my story. I have wrote to my local MP and will keep doing so, I've also started making complaints to companies who use this vile potion and am telling as many people as possible.

Sue Argent, UK. April 2006.

Weight increase, psoriasis, migraine

If you have symptons like I am about to describe, don't be fobbed off by your doctor. No-one knows your body better than you do. Since the early 1980s my weight has gradually been increasing, I also suffer with migraine, psoriasis and several other recurring problems.

For years I was told I eat too much, I eat the wrong foods etc. The last straw came last year when I tried to join the police, I passed the medical with flying colours, but failed on the weight test alone. They like 105 kg or less, I was 118 kg. I had 6 months to reapply, and thought that I could shift the exceess weight. However after 6 months I returned to the police medical weighing 125 kg, as you can imagine I was horrified.

Yet again, off I went to the doctor, who gave me an intense medical, my heart, liver, etc were all perfect. However, my cholesterol had increased from 3.8 to 6 and my weight was now 132 kilos. Again I was told I was eating the wrong foods and too big a portion. I tried in vain to explain that my wife weighs all my food and is strict with what I get. I eat less than 30 grams of fat a day and 1500 calories. I work as a self employed groundsman, farm hand and grave digger so am very active as well as walking my dog for 40 minutes every morning and later in the day if I have time.

Since 2002 I have gone from a 48" trouser to a 40" trouser, yet my weight increased.

As the doctors were all but useless, I deciced that I was obviously eating something that did not agree with me, and after some painful migarines and testing, I came to the conclusion that my body does not like "HVO", since cutting them out just one month ago, I've managed to shift almost one stone, my other problems, migraine, psoriasis etc have all improved, Not gone, but much better. The psoriasis is far less itchy & sore, and now quite faded.

I sincerely hope that I have indeed found the cause of my weight and related problems and hope that others may be able to relate to this and be of use.

Mark Rose, England, June 2006.

I don't know if your readers would be interested in a follow up to my letter of June. Since 1977-78 (ish) I have suffered with psoriasis & migraine, both of which have gotten worse over the years. I must have tried virtually every pill & potion with no joy. Then in June after reading up on trans fats & cutting them out of my diet I am delighted to say that my psoriasis is almost gone, after around 3 months it's amazing. As for my migraine attacks, they have gone from 1 a week to around 1 - 2 a month. Also, your readers may be interested to know my weight loss has slowed since the first month but is decreasing, without dieting. More importantly my body fat is going at a fantastic rate.

Also my wife & teenage children have all joined in, we all feel better & tighter. My daughter who suffers with hayfever has had virtually no symptoms this year. But best of all my son who suffers with ADHD and takes Ritalin has been fantastic. Since he broke up from school in July he has had no Ritalin whatsoever & we've had no problems to speak of.

For years we've had to watch his diet for e numbers which eased the problems, but cutting out trans fats has been the breakthrough we all had hoped for. I hope others can benefit from this, especially parents with children with similar conditions, maybe this is the link we've all been looking for with problem in children such as ADHD, AUTISM etc.

Mark Rose, England, August 2006.

Migraine

This account is from a letter written to the Independent in February 2005 by Amber Barnitt:

Immobilising, throbbing pain; violent vomiting; hot sweats; cold sweats; in and out of sleep. That's how I spent last Sunday. Again. As I recover from another debilitating migraine, which even my emergency treatment will not reach, I pick up my trusty Independent and what do I see? 'The killer in our food'. Hurrah!

They are all at it ... Horlicks ... "Great new taste!" hydrogenated vegetable oil taste presumably? Seven Seas cod liver oil and multivitamin capsules (of all things) ... the source of my latest torture. Products that have been consumed for years with no problem suddenly become complete no-nos for a migraine sufferer. And when the label is read to find out why you have just spent another day out of action, yes! There it is! Hydrogenated vegetable oil! There are endless basic foods, from cheese to citrus fruits that cause migraines without the food processors adding to the problem.

Although no fan of all the new laws that emanate hourly from our leaders, I propose just one more. Supermarkets should be forced to display great open vats of the ingredients in the items they sell at the end of every aisle. Huge barrels of chemical additives and gloopy hydrogenated veg oil would put anyone right off their morning digestive biscuit ( another culprit).

As the Sudan I problem has shown, no-one has a clue what is in the food we eat. And just saying 'oh well its only the proles who eat junk food' will not wash; everyone eats this stuff at some time. I keep hens, buy local, grow veg etc etc, but I am still poisoned on a regular basis by food processors who are only concerned with shelf life and jacking up their profits.

The only good thing about this issue is that, speaking with my farmer's wife hat on, at least this is one 'food scare' where the blame can't be passed down the line to us!

Amber Barnitt, North Yorkshire.

Bacterial vaginitis, yeast infection

This account was written for us by Nadia.

"I have suffered for years with terrible yeast infections that the doctors were never able to identify the cause. I was given almost every drug which I had terrible reactions to even loosing the little taste buds on my mouth.

I kept being told that I had BV and yeast and that to just be clean, wear cotton panties, don't eat too much sugar, blah blah. I tried it all even limiting my carb intake to 60 per day. Watching what I eat but I kept having these flare ups. I did notice a reaction to food about 10min after consumption. I suffered and suffered it has been a complete and total nightmare. Finally I decided to go on a 100% raw diet and eliminated all man made cooked food even meat for 3 weeks. I felt great. My yeast went away.

Slowly I re-introduced foods one by one. Then I noticed my itching and yeast symptoms came back after eating a piece of bread. I started writing down the ingredients that the foods had that gave me yeast and pelvic inflammation totally weird right. They all always shared hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, the worst one was cotton seed oil - ugg..

So there you have it. My story. I hope this helps other people suffering from recurrent yeast infections and BV.

Please let me know if there are others like me out there I would love to know. It is still very hard to find foods that do not have these ingredients in them.

Nadia M, February 2005.

Hay fever symptoms

And this by Mary Walker, who suffers a wide range of debilitating symptoms including those typical of hayfever.

For two years I suffered perennial hay fever symptoms, despite not being a hay fever sufferer at all.

I lived on anti-histamine. It was the only way I could get through the day. My GP was quite satisfied for me to continue to live this way and offered no alternative solutions or allergy testing.

My symptoms were similar to those we all suffer from when about to go down with a cold or the flu. Congestion, sneezing, coughing, streaming eyes, swollen glands, headaches, aches and pains, fatigue, general malaise.

When I finally had myself privately tested I found that I was intolerant to cow's milk and all related byproducts and also coffee (not caffeine) and chocolate, but by far the biggest offender was diagnosed as hydrogenated vegetable oil or fat. This vile product was in many of the things that I ate on a daily basis.

I eliminated all of the offenders from my diet. I now enjoy wonderful health. If I relapse in any way I notice it very markedly. The culprit always turns out to be hydrogenated fat that I have consumed thanks to poor labelling.

The antidote is to chuck the food in the bin, detox, wait four days and equilibrium is restored.

Many thanks to tfX for a great website.

Mary Walker, February 2005.

Headache, stiff back

And from Martin Usher, this account of headache, and stiff back and shoulders:

I was very interested to see your website today and wholeheartedly support your campaign to eliminate trans fats from processed foods.

I am allergic to hydrogenated vegetable oil, if I eat anything that contains it I suffer from a debilitating headache approximately 24 hours after and have an associated stiff back and shoulders. It took many months to find out, by a process of elimination, what it was that was causing the headaches but about 2 years ago I finally realised it was the hydrogenated oil.

I know for definite that hydrogenated oil is the culprit due to mistakes in my diet where, for example, a manufacturer has changed the recipe of a product that formerly didn't have it in, I have eaten the product, had the headache and then read the label after to see the change. This has happened too many times for it not to be the hydrogenated fat that is causing this dramatic reaction.

Shopping these days is a nightmare, it seems that more and more products are having hydrogenated oil in them, it's almost impossible to buy a sliced white loaf that I can safely eat now. On many products the ingredients panels have such tiny writing it takes ages to see if there is any hydrogenated oil in it and it doesn't seem to matter how small the amount is I still get the headache.

What is even worse are the freshly baked products in supermarkets that have no ingredients listed at all. Enquiries made to supermarket staff as to whether a freshly baked product contains hydrogenated oil is usually met with a blank look a promise to go and find out and a return some 20 minutes later with a "we don't know" reply.

I would like to congratulate Ginsters and Fairtrade products because they state quite clearly that the product does NOT contain hydrogenated vegetable oil. If only more manufacturers would do that.

I would be interested to know if you are aware of anyone else with the same side effects to hydrogenated oil as me because I have never come across anyone or any references on the internet. Am I unique to medical science or are there others out there suffering because of the food manufacturers desire for a quick buck regardless of the damage being caused to anyone who eats their products?

If anyone knows the antidote for when I have accidentally eaten hydrogenated oil I would love to know what it is!

Martin Usher, October 2004.

Severe indigestion

From James Catmur, who suffers acid indigestion within minutes of eating hydrogenated oil:

One interesting effect I have suffered from for years is that hydrogenated fats cause me significant indigestion within minutes of eating them. For years I suffered major bouts of indigestion, especially when in the USA. We then cut out all foods that contain hydrogenated fat and hey presto, it stopped. Now a biscuit that has hydrogenated fat can cause indigestion within about 10 minutes. In fact it is such a strong relationship that I can tell which foods have hydrogenated fat via my stomach!

The symptoms are basically acid indigestion, which is cured by taking such things as Gaviscon. I am sure they are the culprit as cutting them out of my diet (and nothing else) has stopped the indigestion, and eating any causes indigestion within minutes. As I said I bet I could tell you a food with them in by just eating it and then waiting a few minutes.

I have always wondered if there was some conspiracy between food manufactures and the sellers of anti-acid products. One sells cheap food and the other makes money as you try to cure the resulting indigestion! Of course they may be the same group of companies!

James Catmur, January 2006.

Eczema

From Nicky Guindani, whose young son develops eczema after eating hydrogenated oil:

"I live in Italy, where, thank God, the school dinners are still good quality. However, there is a growing trend in buying biscuits and snacks for the kids which contain loads of these hydrogenated vegetable oils. I never buy them at home but the children were having biscuits at school during their mid-morning break and my son (age 5) began breaking out in eczema on his face and legs as a result.

I know that the eczema was caused by hydrogenated oil because the eczema attacks only happen after he has eaten foods containing it. The symptoms begin after a few hours and develop fully after a day or so. The eczema covers the area around his mouth and behind his knees and lasts for several days. It causes him quite a lot discomfort and itching.

The allergy specialist, a medical doctor in the Italian health service, diagnosed an intolerance to hydrogenated oils and commented that a 'huge amount of children' have a reaction to these substances. Not least because they are chemically processed but also because there is no indication as to the origins of these oils. A vegetable oil could be palm oil, peanut oil or any other oil derived from vegetation, and the allergy specialist advised me to avoid anything labelled as such as if it were 'totally toxic'.

I have given up reading labels as just about everything contains this crap, and so have begun sending the kids to school with fruit or home-made snacks instead. This in the short term solves my problem, although I have had to provide written certification from the doctor that my son cannot have hydrogenated oils and am made to feel a little like I'm being an awkward mother by being 'different', not least because my daughter does not have an allergy but I will not permit her to eat them either. I am perhaps perceived by the teachers as expecting my children to receive preferential treatment.

What I cannot understand is that if all this research has proven how harmful hydrogenated oil is, why are the teachers, allergy specialists and doctors not working together to put pressure on European governments in order to ban these things for once and for all, especially in things aimed at children. The TV is full of adverts for various kids treats described by my allergy specialist as containing 'pure poison'.

Enough. Come on Jamie Oliver and anyone else reading this - let's do something about it. Denmark has the right idea, let's make it a European ruling for God's sake!"

Nicky Guindani, February 2006.

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