Getting the Trans Fat Out
~ March 2008 No.217 ~
Over the past few years scientific evidence that indicates trans fatty acids (or now more commonly referred to as trans fats) are bad for cardiovascular health has been mounting. The problem has been that trans fats can be found in such a large number of processed foods so that it has been difficult for consumers to avoid them even when they wanted to. Added to this has been the resistance of many food manufacturers to find acceptable alternatives to trans fats and to change their formulations. As well, the trans fats often give the texture and mouth feel to many foods that appeal to consumers.
For years health authorities have told us to cut down on the amount of total fat in our diets. People in developed countries have been consuming too many calories and this has contributed to the epidemic in obesity that we are now experiencing. The focus soon switched to the type of fat in our diet. Saturated fats – found most commonly in animal / meat products - were targeted and we were advised to cut down the saturated fat in our diet and to increase our consumption of polyunsaturated fats. The advice was to look at vegetable sources which are high in polyunsaturated fats. A good example is canola oil which is one of the best sources of polyunsaturated fats.
Trans fatty acids are the latest culprit linked to health problems. Recently, Health Canada posted the results of analytical tests they carried out on a wide variety of foods sampled from restaurants across Canada (in 2006 and 2007) to show which foods were highest in trans fat content. The names of the restaurants or manufacturers were also identified so that consumers could make easy comparisons.
The data reported includes the amount of total fat in the product, as a % of the total food, the % trans in the total fat, the % saturated fat in the total fat and the % of tans fat plus saturated fats in the total fat. Data on the saturated fat content is included because, from a health perspective, foods high in saturated fats and trans fats should be avoided.
With the help of this data Canadian consumers can easily see what foods need to be avoided if they want to reduce the trans fat content in their diets.
% of Food
% of Total Fat
|Donut Chocolate glazed:||C||28.2||40.1|
|French fried Potatoes:||E||13.5||43.8|
Revealing Trans Fats
USDA archive file