The 101 On Trans Fats

fried fast food, fish and chips, french fries, oil, trans fat, AP

Three years after New York City banned smoking in restaurants, city health officials are talking about a new rule for its 24,600 food service establishments: dramatic restrictions on the use of artificial trans fatty acids.



What Are Trans Fats?"
Trans fatty acids are formed when manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats. They are found naturally in small quantities in some foods, including beef, pork, lamb, butter, and milk. But most trans fatty acids in the diet come from hydrogenated foods. Products that contain partially hydrogenated oils or vegetable shortening may contain trans fats. Trans fats are found in 40% of the products on supermarket shelves.


Why Are Trans Fats Unhealthy?
Scientific evidence shows that consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, levels, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, more than 12.5 million Americans have coronary heart disease, and more than 500,000 die each year. That makes it one of the leading causes of death in the United States.


What Are Some Ways To Cut Down On Fat In My Diet?
Healthier oils include vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, canola, and olive oils — but not tropical palm or coconut oils. Other ways to skim the saturated fat in your diet is to choose lean meats, such as skinless chicken and turkey, lean beef and low-fat dairy.


How Many Trans Fats Do American Eat?
The FDA estimates that Americans adults eat 5.8 grams of trans fats per day — that's about 2.6% of our daily calories. By comparison, we eat four to five times more saturated fat per day. About 40% of our trans fat intake comes from cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, and bread, while 17% comes from margarine.


Where Did Trans Fats Come From?
Trans fats were developed during the backlash against saturated fat — the artery-clogging animal fats found in butter, cream, and meats. Food manufacturers realized that trans fats lasted longer than butter without going rancid.


Are All Fats Bad?
Not at all, according to WebMD. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, found mainly in canola, olive, and peanut oils, can result in less LDL and more HDL production in the body, some doctors say. But many advise that we should still limit our daily fat intake to 30% or less of our daily calories, she stresses.



To learn more about trans fats:

• Read more from WebMD.

• Click here to read more health news from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and here for information about trans fats.
  • Melissa McNamara

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