NEWS2U Health & Wellness
Living Healthy in an Unhealthy World

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Health Tip - Trans fats
What you need to know?

By Sue Mueller

Although trans fat is required by law to be labeled, the food makers may say "Trans fat: 0 g" when trans fats are present in a food at less than 0.5 gram PER SERVING. So "Trans fat: 0 gram" is not always telling the truth. If you see "trans fat: 0 g", then you need to check the list of ingredients for the wording like "partially hydrogenated vegetables oils" (such as partially hydrogenated soybean oil), which are trans fats.

Also remember that just because you do not see "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" on the ingredient list does not always mean the product is free of trans fat. Some ingredients contain trans fat, but their names do not indicate any trans fat in the ingredients. For instance, butter and margarine likely contain trans fat.

The FDA says consumers should not exclude trans fat because exclusion of trans fats will limit the choice of foods, which may cause nutrition imbalance of a diet. This statement is not always true. Although it may be true for
some people who rely on processed food, those who are determined to get rid of trans fats can use a diet full of needed nutrients, but without trans fat present.

The FDA also recommends that consumers limit intake of trans fats at 2 grams per day. But that does not mean 2 grams per day is safe. There is no scientific evidence suggesting that daily intake of less than 2 grams of trans fat is safe. Harvard nutritionists and epidemiologists suggest consumers should completely avoid trans fat.

Trans fat formed in food during the processing may not have to be labeled. Chemists know thermal processes such food processing can transform natural oil into trans fat. Trans fats may also be present in cooking oils. When you examine the label of a cooking oil, add all the fats to see if they can add up to the total amount. There are usually three categories of fats, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated. Let�s assume the total serving is 15 grams, polyunsaturated fat is 9 grams, monounsaturated 4 grams and saturated 1 gram. Now you add them up and you get 14 grams. 1 gram fat is missing, which is likely to be trans fats.

Polyunsaturated fats are always labeled as healthy fat. But consumers need to know that they are thermally more unstable compared to monounsaturated and saturated fats. This means that cooking oil should not contain too much polyunsaturated fats, which may be converted during the cooking process into trans fats. In comparison, oils containing high levels of monounsaturated fats and saturated are more stable. On the other hand, when you cook, try not to use high heat if you have to use oil with a high amount of polyunsaturated fats. When a natural vegetable oil is used to prepare French fries, there may be trans fat formed in the cooking oil if the oil is used for a long time.

Trans fats are also present in dairy products such as milk. These trans fats occur naturally in cows. While some studies suggested at least one type of such trans fat is beneficial, consumers need to remember that they are TRANS FATS, meaning natural humans may not be able to handle them properly and they may end up somewhere interfering in normal cellular functions. But few studies have explored the effect of the natural trans fats on human health.