Why is it so Dangerous?
Trans fatty acids, also known as trans fat,
is an artery-clogging fat that is formed when vegetable oils are
hardened into margarine or shortening. It is found in many other
foods besides margarine and shortening, however, including fried
foods like french fries and fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies,
pastries and crackers. In the United States, typical french fries
have about 40 percent trans fatty acids and many popular cookies
and crackers range from 30 percent to 50 percent trans fatty acids.
Doughnuts have about 35 percent to 40 percent trans fatty acids.
Trans fat is known to increase blood levels of low density lipoprotein
(LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, while lowering levels of
high density lipoprotein (HDL), known as "good" cholesterol.
It can also cause major clogging of arteries, type 2 diabetes
and other serious health problems, and was found to increase the
risk of heart disease. Many food companies use trans fat instead
of oil because it reduces cost, extends storage life of products
and can improve flavor and texture.
One problem with the use of trans fat is that food companies
were not required to list it on nutrition labels so consumers
had no way of knowing how much trans fat was in the food they
were eating. Further, there is no upper safety limit recommended
for the daily intake of trans fat. The Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) has only said that intake of trans fats should be
as low as possible.
In a step in the right direction, the FDA has announced a final
rule requiring food manufacturers to list trans
fat on Nutrition Facts labels. The bad news is that the labels
are not required until 2006 so consumers will need to fend for
themselves when making food choices until that time.
While some foods like bakery items and fried foods are obvious
sources of trans fat, other processed foods, such as cereals and
waffles, can also contain trans fat. One tip to determine the
amount of trans fat in a food is to read the ingredient label
and look for shortening, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated
oil. The higher up on the list these ingredients appear, the more
You can also add up the amount of fat in a product (saturated,
monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), provided the amounts are
listed, and compare the total with the total fat on the label.
If they dont match up, the difference is likely trans fat,
especially if partially hydrogenated oil is listed as one of the
A few companies, like Frito Lay, Lipton, and Nestle have already
taken steps to eliminate trans fat in some products. Nestle is
removing it from Rolo and Toffee Crisp and possibly other products.
Their competitor, Cadbury, is also considering removing trans
fats from some of its products.
Recently a lawsuit was filed against Nabisco, the Kraft Foods
unit that makes Oreo cookies, seeking a ban on the sale of Oreo
cookies because they contain trans fat, making them dangerous
to eat. The case was later withdrawn because the lawyer who filed
the suit said the publicity surrounding the case accomplished
what he set out to do: create awareness about the dangers of trans
fat. Kraft is also among the companies making efforts to reduce
trans fatty acid in their products.
Reference Source 116