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Trans Fats

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 (CHD). According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, more than 12.5 million Americans have CHD, and more than 500,000 die each year. That makes CHD one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration has required that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol be listed on food labels since 1993. Starting Jan.1, 2006, listing of trans fat will be required as well. With trans fat added to the Nutrition Facts panel, required by Jan. 1, 2006, you will know for the first time how much of all three--saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol--are in the foods you choose. Identifying saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol on the food label gives you information you need to make food choices that help reduce the risk of CHD. This revised label will be of particular interest to people concerned about high blood cholesterol and heart disease.

However, everyone should be aware of the risk posed by consuming too much saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. But what is trans fat, and how can you limit the amount of this fat in your diet?

What is Trans Fat ?

Basically, trans fat is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil--a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods containing these fats.

Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils. Unlike other fats, the majority of trans fat is formed when food manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine. A small amount of trans fat is found naturally, primarily in some animal-based foods.

Trans fat, like saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, raises the LDL cholesterol that increases your risk for CHD. Americans consume on average 4 to 5 times as much saturated fat as trans fat in their diets.

Although saturated fat is the main dietary culprit that raises LDL, trans fat and dietary cholesterol also contribute significantly.

Major Food Sources of Trans Fat for American Adults

(Average Daily Trans Fat Intake is 5.8 Grams or 2.6 Percent of Calories)

40  %

cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, bread, etc.

21%

animal products

17%

margarine

8%

fried potatoes

5%

potato chips, corn chips, popcorn

4%

household shortening

3%

salad dressing

1%

breakfast cereal

1%

candy


Data based on FDA’s economic analysis for the final trans fatty acid labeling rule, "Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling, Nutrient Content Claims, and Health Claims" (July 11, 2003)



Are All Fats the Same?

Simply put: No. Fat is a major source of energy for the body and aids in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K and carotenoids. Both animal- and plant-derived food products contain fat, and when eaten in moderation, fat is important for proper growth, development, and maintenance of good health. As a food ingredient, fat provides taste, consistency, and stability and helps you feel full. In addition, parents should be aware that fats are an especially important source of calories and nutrients for infants and toddlers (up to 2 years of age), who have the highest energy needs per unit of body weight of any age group.

While unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are beneficial when consumed in moderation, saturated and trans fats are not. Saturated fat and trans fat raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Dietary cholesterol also contributes to heart disease. Therefore, it is advisable to choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as part of a healthful diet.

What Can You Do About Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, and Cholesterol?

When comparing foods, look at the Nutrition Facts panel, and choose the food with the lower amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Health experts recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet. However, these experts recognize that eliminating these three components entirely from your diet is not practical because they are unavoidable in ordinary diets.

Fat Tips

Here are some practical tips you can use every day to keep your consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol low while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.

  • Check the Nutrition  Facts panel to compare foods because the serving sizes are generally consistent in similar types of foods. Choose foods lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. For saturated fat and cholesterol, keep in mind that 5 percent of the Daily Value (%DV) or less is low and 20 percent or more is high. (There is no %DV for trans fat.)
  • Choose alternative fats. Replace saturated and trans   fats in your diet with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats do not raise LDL cholesterol levels and have health benefits when eaten in moderation. Sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils.Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and foods like nuts. 
  • Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the combined amount of saturated fat and trans   fat is lower than the amount in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter. 
  • Consider fish. Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as mackerel, sardines, and salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are being studied to determine if they offer protection against heart disease. 
  • Choose lean meats, such as poultry without the skin and not fried and lean beef and pork, not fried, with visible fat trimmed. 
  • Ask before you order when eating out. A good tip to remember is to ask which fats are being used in the preparation of your food when eating or ordering out. 
  • Limit foods high in cholesterol such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks, and full-fat dairy products, like whole milk. 
  • Choose foods low in saturated fat such as fat free or 1% dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods, and fruits and vegetables. 

 More about Trans Fat

Source: FDA Office of Public Affairs  http://www.fda.gov/fdac/default.htm

 
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