THE FACTS ABOUT TRANS FAT Reprinted from the American Heart Association website


What are trans fats?

Trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Another name for trans fats is “partially hydrogenated oils." Look for them on the ingredient list on food packages.

Why do some companies use trans fats?
Companies like using trans fats in their foods because they’re easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time. Trans fats give foods a desirable taste and texture. Many restaurants and fast-food outlets use trans fats to deep-fry foods because oils with trans fats can be used many times in commercial fryers.

How do trans fats affect my health?
Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Why did trans fats become so popular if they have such bad health effects?
Before 1990, very little was known about how trans fat can harm your health. In the 1990s, research began identifying the adverse health effects of trans fats.

What foods contain trans fats?
Trans fats can be found in many foods – but especially in fried foods like French fries and doughnuts, and baked goods including pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, and stick margarines and shortenings. You can determine the amount of trans fats in a particular packaged food by looking at the Nutrition Facts label. You can also spot trans fats by reading ingredient lists and looking for the ingredients referred to as “partially hydrogenated oils.”

Are there any naturally occurring trans fats?
Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, including beef, lamb and butterfat. It isn’t clear; though, whether these naturally occurring trans fats have the same bad effects on cholesterol levels as trans fats that have been industrially manufactured.

How much trans fat can I eat a day?
The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans fats you eat to less than 1 percent of your total daily calories. That means if you need 2,000 calories a day, no more than 20 of those calories should come from trans fats. That’s less than 2 grams of trans fats a day. Given the amount of naturally occurring trans fats you probably eat every day, this leaves virtually no room at all for industrially manufactured trans fats. Find out your personal daily fat limits on My Fats Translator.

How can I stay within my daily limit for trans fats?
Read the Nutrition Facts label on foods you buy at the store and, when eating out, ask what kind of oil foods are cooked in. Replace the trans fats in your diet with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Make an attempt to learn how to Live Fat-Sensibly.

Excerpts from an article by Glenn Mueller for eDiets on Tuesday, May, 13, 2008

I have long known that trans fats are very unhealthy, but couldn't always tell whether or not they were present in prepared foods. Now that the FDA's new labeling laws are finally in effect, it's becoming easier to eliminate trans fats from your diet.

Trans fats are created when a liquid oil such as corn oil is converted into a solid fat through a process known as hydrogenation. Adding hydrogen to the liquid oil creates a synthetic fat that can be used to enhance a product's shelf life, freshness and taste. The problem is that our bodies don't break down these trans fatty acids properly. Trans fats can change the function of the cells in the human body and have been linked to numerous medical problems, including heart disease.

Research consistently demonstrates that trans fatty acids are worse for our bodies than saturated fats, such as butter and lard. In fact, according to the results of a recent study in "The Lancet", consuming a mere five grams of trans fat per day increased women's rates of dying from a heart attack by 50 percent. Some researchers say that eating trans fat is like ingesting plastics. Our bodies just don't know how to handle it.

On Jan. 1, 2006, the FDA began requiring food manufacturers to list the trans fat content on their nutrition labels. However, avoiding trans fats is not as simple as it might seem. If a serving contains 0.5 grams of trans fat or less, companies can still express the content as zero. To make sure they are avoiding all trans fatty acids, consumers should check product labels for the words "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "partially hydrogenated soybean oil." If the elabel says "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" anywhere on the label, you are still getting trans fat.

Since some studies have shown that approximately one out of every five meals in this country is served at a restaurant, you can't exactly go back in the kitchen and find out what your favorite dishes are made with. Be aggressive. Ask about their cooking oils.

It is never too early to teach your children about healthy eating and proper portion control. First-time author Ronni Julien is offering an invaluable resource for anyone committed to healthier living. In "The Trans Fat Free Kitchen: Simple Recipes, Shopping Guides and Restaurant Tips", this knowledgeable nutritionist provides all the tools you need to eliminate those dreaded trans fats from your diet for good. Julien provides an extensive list of "trans fat free treasures" that you can find in the aisles of your local grocery store and a complete list of trans fat-free entrees at many popular restaurant chains.