Trans Fatty Acids Found in Many Foods
~ March 2000 No.94 ~
Not all fats are made equal. And not all fats are good for you. Fats are the major source of energy in our diet. We need energy to live, grow and function normally. Certain types of fat are essential in our diet because our bodies can't make them, but we have to be careful of the types and amounts of fat we eat. We should limit the total amount of fat they consume. We should be including foods that contain polyunsaturated fats in our diets; sources of monounsaturated fats are also recommended. We should also be reducing the saturated fats in our diet. Now we have to worry about trans fatty acids. Trans fatty acids are not normally found in foods - although they are found in small amounts in dairy products. They are produced in the manufacture of many foods. Many vegetable shortenings and margarines contain trans fatty acids that are formed during the hydrogenation step that changes a liquid vegetable oil to a solid fat at room temperature. Other foods that contain shortening or margarine or that have been fried in partially hydrogenated fats are also sources of trans fatty acids.
Trans fatty acids are taken into the body just as any other fat, but because of its geometrical shape, the body treats trans fatty acids as if they were saturated fats. Both saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids have been found to increase low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. The average consumer in the US is probably eating about 25 grams of saturated fat per day and 5 grams of trans fats each day. That is why trans fats are getting more and more attention. So much so that the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) is proposing changes to labelling rules to provide consumers with more information about the amount of trans fatty acids in foods. If adapted food labels that must carry information about the amount of saturated fat in the product in future will also have to carry information about the amount of trans fat (if any) in the product. Yes, the labels are getting longer, but they contain more information that allows the consumer to make comparisons and choose healthy products.
|Food||g trans fat/serving|
|Source: USFDA Food Composition Data, 1995|