Trans Fats Decline; Why You Need to Stay Vigilant

February 28, 2012

Recently headlining in the news, levels of trans fats have decreased in Americans by nearly sixty percent. Find out why you need to still be careful here

Recently headlining in the news, a research letter published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that since 2000, levels of trans fats have decreased in Americans by nearly sixty percent.

Trans fats were widely used in fried, baked and packaged foods (like soups, frozen meals and crackers) and because of the strong push from public health experts, trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, have made their way out. Various cities have even banned their use in restaurants.

According to Hubert W. Vesper, a C.D.C. scientist and lead author of the study, the decline in trans fats, “shows substantial progress that should lower cardiovascular risk in adults.”

Not only did Americans have lower blood levels of trans fats, but researchers also observed improvements in cholesterol and triglyceride level. Levels of LDLs decreased while levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol), increased.

Christopher Portier, director of the center’s National Center for Environmental Health, commented in a statement that the findings “demonstrate the effectiveness of efforts in reducing blood trans fatty acids and highlight that further reductions in the levels of trans fats must remain an important public health goal.” We need to continue to be vigilant about what we eat; reading labels and choosing quality foods is key.

What exactly are trans fats?
Trans fatty acids are found naturally in animal fats, including butter, but only in small quantities. They are common, unnatural components of many processed fats, especially partially hydrogenated oils. Partial hydrogenation turns liquid oils into semisolid fats, prolonging shelf life in processed foods. Margarine, vegetable shortening and most commercial baked goods contain these artificially hardened fats and, trans fats.

Trans fatty acids are thought to be just as bad, if not worse for the heart and arteries than saturated fats. They increase total cholesterol, raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Beyond that, they may have adverse effects on cell membranes and the immune system, and may promote cancer and aging.

Remember to choose healthy fats. Sources of healthy fats include nuts and seeds, like almonds, walnuts, flax and hemp seeds among others, omega-3 rich foods like wild salmon, sardines and black cod and pasture raised poultry, beef, bison and eggs. Olive and avocado are also healthy oils.

The study was financed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and carried out by scientists there and at the National Institutes of Health.