dangers trans fats

The Dangers of Trans Fats

First it was cholesterol, then saturated fat. Now trans fatty acids are the latest dietary demon. Like those nutrients, trans fats raise blood cholesterol levels and significantly increase the risk of premature heart disease.

Trans fat has been nicknamed “phantom fat” because the Food and Drug Administration does not require it to be listed on food labels.

As a result, even health-conscious consumers are often unaware that hundreds of popular foods-from margarine, baked crackers and biscuits to cookies, fish sticks and french fries-pack significant amounts of trans fatty acids.

These trans fats come from liquid vegetable oils that have been processed into solids because they stay fresh longer than conventional shortenings. (This processing is called hydrogenation.)

On average, Americans consume about five grams of trans fats per day, accounting for about 3 percent of their total calories, according to a 1999 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

While that may sound tiny, research has linked even small amounts of trans fats to an increased risk of heart disease.

A 1994 Harvard University study found more than twice the risk of heart attacks among those who ate partially hydrogenated oils, which are high in trans fats, compared with those who consumed little trans fats.

Several large studies in the United States and elsewhere, including the Nurses Health Study, also show a strong link between premature death and consumption of foods high in trans fatty acids.