Trans Fats Facts

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on Trans Fats.

Trans Fats
Trans Fats From Foods May Worsen Memory
Trans Fat Drop Huge Public Health Progress, Says CSPI
Products Containing Trans Fats (As of 2/1/12)
What Are Trans Fatty Acids?
Trans Fats Facts You Need
The New Rule
Trans Fats Fact Sheet
Top 10 Foods to Beware
Special Report: Trans Fats
The Top 10 "Trans Fat" Foods
Related Topic: 

Trans fat is the common name for unsaturated fat with trans-isomer (E-isomer) fatty acid(s). Because the term refers to the configuration of a double carbon-carbon bond, trans fats are sometimes monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, but never saturated. Trans fats are rare in living nature, but can occur in food production process.

The consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease[1][2] by raising levels of LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.[3] Health authorities worldwide recommend that consumption of trans fat be reduced to trace amounts. Trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils are more harmful than naturally occurring oils.[4] Two Canadian studies, that received funding by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency [5] and the Dairy Farmers of Canada,[6] have shown that the natural trans fat vaccenic acid, found in beef and dairy products, can have the opposite health effect and can actually be beneficial compared to hydrogenated vegetable shortening, or a mixture of pork lard and soy fat,[6] e.g. lowering total and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.[7][8][9]

Unsaturated fat is a fat molecule containing one or more double bonds between the carbon atoms. Since the carbons are double-bonded to each other, there are fewer bonds connected to hydrogen, so there are fewer hydrogen atoms, hence the name, 'unsaturated'. Cis and trans are terms that refer to the arrangement of the two hydrogen atoms bonded to the carbon atoms involved in a double bond. In the cis arrangement, the hydrogens are on the same side of the double bond. In the trans arrangement, the hydrogens are on opposite sides of the double bond.

The process of hydrogenation adds hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats, eliminating double bonds and making them into partially or completely saturated fats. However, partial hydrogenation, if it is chemical rather than enzymatic, converts a part of cis-isomers into trans-unsaturated fats instead of hydrogenating them completely. Trans fats also occur naturally in a limited number of cases: Vaccenyl and conjugated linoleyl (CLA) containing trans fats occur naturally in trace amounts in meat and dairy products from ruminants, although the latter also constitutes a cis fat.

The National Academy of Science has concluded there is no safe level of trans fat consumption. There is no adequate level, recommended daily amount or tolerable upper limit for trans fats. This is because any incremental increase in trans fat intake increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
Source: Food and nutrition board, institute of medicine of the national academies (2005). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). National Academies Press. p. 504.

Trans Fats From Foods May Worsen Memory

Men who ate more performed poorly on word recall test.

Trans fats may play havoc with your memory along with your cholesterol levels, a new study suggests.

Younger men who ate high levels of trans fats performed more poorly on a memory test involving word recall than those who ate lower levels, the researchers found.

In the study, men with high daily intake of trans fat recalled 12 to 21 fewer words, out of an average score of 86, said lead author Dr. Beatrice Golomb, a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

"It's a pretty sizeable relationship," Golomb said. "This adds to a body of evidence that trans fats are not something that people should be sticking in their mouth."

But, it's important to note that the study wasn't designed to definitively prove a cause-and-effect relationship; it can only show an association between higher consumption of trans fats and worsened recall.

The findings were published online June 17, 2015 in the journal PLOS One.

Golomb's study appears the day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a three-year phase-out of partially hydrogenated oils from the American food supply. These oils are a primary source of trans fats.

Golomb calls trans fats an "anti-food," noting that they increase levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol while simultaneously driving down levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.

Trans fats also increase inflammation and interfere with hormone production, which might explain the association between trans fats and memory, she said.

"The purpose of food is to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly," Golomb said. "This actually does the opposite. It subverts cellular and organ function."

Golomb decided to look into trans fats following another study in which chocolate was favorably linked to memory. Chocolate is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties, so it stood to reason that trans fats might harm memory by promoting inflammation, she said.

In the study, researchers evaluated data from 645 healthy men who were asked to complete a dietary survey and take part in a memory test.

The test involved a set of 104 cards, each bearing a word. The men had to say whether each word was new, or had been shown to them before.

On average, men 45 and younger recalled 86 words. But for each additional gram of trans fats consumed daily, their performance dropped by 0.76 words, the study revealed.

Men whose daily diet contained about 16 grams of trans fats recalled 12 fewer words correctly, while men who consumed as much as 28 grams of trans fats daily recalled about 21 fewer words, the study found.

"This study does provide 'food for thought' about potential adverse effects of dietary trans fatty acids on cognitive [mental] function," said Dr. Marc Gordon, chief of neurology for Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y.

However, Gordon said that the study doesn't prove a direct link between trans fats and memory, but only shows a potential association that might have some other explanation.

Besides causing inflammation, trans fats might also inhibit the body's production of omega 3 fatty acids, which play a crucial role in brain function, Golomb said.

"It would not be unexpected for that to lead to worse brain function," she said.

Trans fats also might affect a person's serotonin levels, said Jim White, a nutrition expert in Virginia Beach, Va., and a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood, appetite and sleep, and also plays a role in brain function.

"If trans fat is reducing serotonin levels, it can really affect depression and memory," said White, noting that previous studies have shown increased depression in people who consume high amounts of trans fats.

On June 16, 2015 the FDA ruled that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer "generally recognized as safe," the designation that for decades has allowed companies to use the oils in a wide variety of food products.

Companies have until June 18, 2018 to either reformulate their products and remove all partially hydrogenated oils, or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of the oils, the agency announced.

Even though food manufacturers have cut trans fats by 86 percent since 2003, trans fats still make up 2 percent to 3 percent of the average American diet -- about 5 to 6 grams a day, White said.

"I normally don't recommend cutting out anything completely in the diet," White said. "Our bodies even need a small amount of saturated fats to sustain them. But I tell people, do not consume anything with trans fats in them. This is a nutrient that's been nothing but negative."

The study focused on men because there were too few women to include in the analysis, Golomb said. But she added that she saw no reason why trans fats would affect women differently than men. Last Updated: 6/18/2015

Trans Fat Drop Huge Public Health Progress, Says CSPI

Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson
The news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 58 percent decline in trans fat in blood between 2000 and 2009 is great news for American hearts and arteries. Trans fat raises bad cholesterol, lowers good cholesterol, and promotes heart disease, so the less of it the better. That dramatic drop represents enormous public health progress and is almost certainly preventing thousands of heart attacks and premature deaths each year.

Credit for the reductions in trans fat is shared by many parties. New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, California, Montgomery County, Md., and other jurisdictions banned most artificial trans fat from restaurant food. (Some bad publicity and various lawsuits also helped spur progress.) Many food manufacturers and restaurants voluntarily switched oils. The FDA helped greatly by requiring that trans fat be listed on Nutrition Facts labels. And oil processors, seed developers, and farmers worked hard to produce and market healthier oils for restaurants and food manufacturers to use.

Still, products ranging from Long John Silver’s fried foods to Pop Secret Popcorn to Pillsbury’s Buttermilk Buscuits are loaded with trans fat. It’s high time the Food and Drug Administration banned partially hydrogenated oil, the source of artificial trans fat, as CSPI petitioned the agency to do almost eight years ago.
Source: Communications Department, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Q: What ARE trans fatty acids?

A: Trans fatty acids (or "trans fat") are fats found in foods such as vegetable shortening, some margarines, crackers, candies, baked goods, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, salad dressings, and many processed foods.

Q: Why should I care about trans fat?

A: It's important to know about trans fat because there is a direct, proven relationship between diets high in trans fat content and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels and, therefore, an increased risk of coronary heart disease - a leading cause of death in the US.

Q: Aren't ALL fats bad?

A: No. There are "good" fats and "bad" ones, just like there's good and bad blood cholesterol. Saturated fats and trans fat have bad effects on cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and corn oil) have good effects.

Q: How much trans fat is too much?

A: There is research currently underway to determine this. However, it is true and accurate to say that the less saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol consumed the better. Trans fat while pervasive in many of the foods we eat is not "essential" to any healthy diet.

Q: How can consumers know if a product contains trans fat if it's not identified on the nutrition label?

A: Consumers can know if a food contains trans fat by looking at the ingredient list on the food label. If the ingredient list includes the words "shortening," "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "hydrogenated vegetable oil," the food contains trans fat. Because ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance, smaller amounts are present when the ingredient is close to the end of the list.

Q: Do restaurants have to list the fat content of their foods?

A: No. But it's a good tip to always ask which fats are being used to prepare the food you order.

Q: Why is it important to read labels?

A: Labels provide valuable information. An informed consumer is able to make better, healthier choices. So better labels make for smarter, healthier consumers.

Trans Fats Facts You Need

At least two years ago, the FDA promised new rules for including trans-fat content on food labels. Now, the rule changes are becoming a reality. What do they mean to you? What are trans fats anyway? How bad are they? We bring you the facts you need in this special report on Trans Fats.

The New Rule

Food manufacturers will have to list on nutrition labels how much trans fat their foods contain by January 1, 2006. How soon will you see a difference?

Trans Fats Fact Sheet

Why are trans fats so important? Read why the FDA says you should care.

Top 10 Foods to Beware

Even if trans fat isn't listed on labels yet, you can make an educated guess as to whether food has it or not -- and how much. Here's what to look for.

Special Report: Trans Fats

Trans fatty acids -- better known as "trans fats" -- have emerged as the food industry's newest bad boy.

Trans fats are formed during a process called hydrogenation, which converts a relatively healthy, unsaturated liquid fat -- like corn oil or soybean oil -- into a solid one. This gives the fat longer shelf life, so it's convenient for restaurants and food manufacturers.

The problem: The body treats hydrogenated fat more like saturated fat, like butter or animal fat. Saturated fat has long been known to clog arteries -- and some studies indicate trans fat may be a bit more evil. But on food labels, trans fatty acids are not included under "saturated fat."

What to Do, What to Do...

To help consumers, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring that all food labels list trans fats by January 1, 2006. Until then, how can you know which foods are safe and which contain these stealth fats?

For guidance, WebMD turned to the nation's nutrition gurus -- the experts at the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

"Until now, consumers were really in the dark about trans fatty acids...In fact, most people are probably very confused right now," says Cindy Moore, MS, RD, an ADA spokesperson. Moore is also director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Here are four ways you can make healthier choices at the supermarket. Immediately below these suggestions, we list the top 10 types of food loaded with trans fats. Print out this list to become a wise, safer shopper.

Some manufacturers have already changed their recipes and formulas to reduce trans fats to less than 0.5% of fats. The ingredient list may state "partially hydrogenated oil," but if the packaging says "Contains No Trans Fats," you can believe it, says Moore.

There's more good news. "It's very likely that in the next few months, we'll be seeing more and more products without trans fats" as the food industry adjusts to the new consumer awareness, Moore tells WebMD.

The Top 10 "Trans Fat" Foods

1. Spreads. Margarine is a twisted sister -- it's loaded with trans fats and saturated fats, both of which can lead to heart disease. Other non-butter spreads and shortening also contain large amounts of trans fat and saturated fat:

Tip: Look for soft-tub margarine, because it is less likely to have trans fat. Some margarines already say that on the packaging.

[Important note: When you cook with margarine or shortening, you will not increase the amount of trans fat in food, says Moore. Cooking is not the same as the hydrogenation process. "Margarine and shortening are already bad, but you won't make them any worse."]

2. Packaged foods. Cake mixes, Bisquick, and other mixes all have several grams of trans fat per serving.

Tip: Add flour and baking powder to your grocery list; do-it-yourself baking is about your only option right now, says Moore. Or watch for reduced-fat mixes.

3. Soups. Ramen noodles and soup cups contain very high levels of trans fat.

Tip: Get out the crock-pot and recipe book. Or try the fat-free and reduced-fat canned soups.

4. Fast Food. Bad news here: Fries, chicken, and other foods are deep-fried in partially hydrogenated oil. Even if the chains use liquid oil, fries are sometimes partially fried in trans fat before they're shipped to the restaurant. Pancakes and grilled sandwiches also have some trans fat, from margarine slathered on the grill.


Fries (a medium order) contain 14.5 grams.

A KFC Original Recipe chicken dinner has 7 grams, mostly from the chicken and biscuit.

Burger King Dutch Apple Pie has 2 grams.

Tip: Order your meat broiled or baked. Skip the pie. Forget the biscuit. Skip the fries -- or share them with many friends.

5. Frozen Food. Those yummy frozen pies, pot pies, waffles, pizzas, even breaded fish sticks contain trans fat. Even if the label says it's low-fat, it still has trans fat.

Tip: In frozen foods, baked is always heart-healthier than breaded. Even vegetable pizzas aren't flawless; they likely have trans fat in the dough. Pot pies are often loaded with too much saturated fat, even if they have no trans fat, so forget about it.

6. Baked Goods. Even worse news -- more trans fats are used in commercially baked products than any other foods. Doughnuts contain shortening in the dough and are cooked in trans fat.

Tip: Get back to old-fashioned home cooking again. If you bake, use fat-substitute baking products, or just cut back on the bad ingredients, says Moore. Don't use the two sticks of butter or margarine the recipe calls for two. Try using one stick and a fat-free baking product.

7. Chips and Crackers. Shortening provides crispy texture. Even "reduced fat" brands can still have trans fat. Anything fried (like potato chips and corn chips) or buttery crackers have trans fat.

Tip: Think pretzels, toast, pita bread. Actually, pita bread with a little tomato sauce and low-fat cheese tastes pretty good after a few minutes in the toaster oven.

8. Breakfast food. Breakfast cereal and energy bars are quick-fix, highly processed products that contain trans fats, even those that claim to be "healthy."

Tip: Whole-wheat toast, bagels, and many cereals don't have much fat. Cereals with nuts do contain fat, but it's healthy fat.

9. Cookies and Candy. Look at the labels; some have higher fat content than others. A chocolate bar with nuts -- or a cookie -- is likely to have more trans fat than gummy bears.

Nabisco Chips Ahoy! Real Chocolate Chip Cookies have 1.5 grams per 3 cookies. If you plow through a few handfuls of those, you've put away a good amount of trans fat.

Tip: Gummy bears or jelly beans win, hands down. If you must have chocolate, get dark chocolate -- since it's been shown to have redeeming heart-healthy virtues.

10. Toppings and Dips. Nondairy creamers and flavored coffees, whipped toppings, bean dips, gravy mixes, and salad dressings contain lots of trans fat.

Tip: Use skim milk or powdered nonfat dry milk in coffee. Keep an eye out for fat-free products of all types. As for salad dressings, choose fat-free there, too -- or opt for old-fashioned oil-and-vinegar dressing. Natural oils such as olive oil and canola oil don't contain trans fat.

Can you eliminate trans fats entirely your diet? Probably not. Even the esteemed National Academy of Sciences stated last year that such a laudable goal is not possible or realistic.

Instead, Moore suggests, "The goal is to have as little trans fat in your diet as possible. "You're not eliminating trans fats entirely, but you're certainly cutting back."

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More die in the United States of too much food than of too little. - John Kenneth Galbraith

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