Dietary Trans Fat Double Impact on Bad Cholesterol Levels and Triple Effect on Heart

Dietary Trans Fat Double Impact on Bad Cholesterol Levels and Triple Effect on H

No food is inherently "bad;" it is the total diet that counts. If your diet is generally low in fat (especially saturated and trans fat) and sugar and you are getting enough vitamins and minerals, you may occasionally indulge in a rich dessert or serving of fried food. If, on the other hand, you eat a lot of high-calorie foods, you are likely to quickly get your total calories for the day without getting enough vital nutrients.

Of the possible dietary changes, limiting how much saturated and trans fats you eat is the most important step you can take to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease. A high blood cholesterol level can lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.Better lifestyle habits -- think less junk food, more fish and more exercise -- can help prevent 80 percent of coronary heart disease and 90 percent of type 2 diabetes.

Trans fat is created when liquid vegetable oil is processed or “hydrogenated” into a solid fat. Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil looks and acts more like butter, lard and other saturated animal fats during baking, so it improves the taste and texture of baked and fried foods.

One current "trick" food manufacturers use is to break up the components of the food (such as coating and the filling). They can take up half of the ingredient listing with a full description of the first component and its ingredients, such as the inside filling of the food item, thus "hiding" the second ingredient, often hydrogenated fat, which appears later into the product listing.

Don't be fooled by fast food restaurants. The phrase "we cook in vegetable oil" can mean liquid or hydrogenated oil. Even the phrase "no cholesterol containing all vegetable oil" can be misleading, for vegetable oil can raise your body's cholesterol if it is a hydrogenated or partly hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Even though trans fat is now listed on the label and many foods boast “Trans Fat Free” or “Zero Trans Fats”, snack foods and packaged baked goods still contain a high amount of fat and calories and should be eaten in moderation.

To help consumers plan a healthy diet, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has created the Nutrition Facts label. This label is required on the packages of most prepared foods, such as breads, cereals, canned and frozen foods, snacks, desserts, and drinks. The label states how many calories and how much saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber, and other nutrients are contained in each serving. Serving sizes are based on amounts commonly consumed and are standardized for similar kinds of food so that the nutritional value of these products may be compared.

The dietary choices teens make can lead to eating behaviors that last a lifetime. While fat may not be the first thing that teens consider when choosing a meal or after-school snack, understanding the different types of fats found in the diet may have long-term implications for their health. Because of upcoming federal regulations governing trans fat labeling on the Nutrition Facts label of packaged foods, the public has a heightened awareness of fats in general and trans fat in particular. Dietitians can take advantage of this opportunity to educate teens on healthy fat intake.

Metabolic studies suggest that fatty acids containing at least one double bond in the trans configuration, which are found in hydrogenated fat, have a detrimental effect on serum lipoprotein cholesterol levels as compared with unsaturated fatty acids containing double bonds only in the cis configuration.They further suggest that both the general public and patients with hypercholesterolemia should be encouraged to use vegetable oil in its natural state or after minimal hydrogenation and to use products made from this type of oil. Vegetable shortening and stick margarine have advantages over butter with respect to LDL cholesterol levels, yet they result in higher LDL cholesterol levels than does soybean oil and similar or less favorable ratios of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, and they are therefore less preferable.

All fats are high in energy and will make you gain weight unless you burn them off by staying active. Some fats are more likely to increase your risk of heart attack and stroke:
Saturated fats and trans-fats lead to “bad” cholesterol in your blood, and increase your risk of heart disease. Try to restrict your use of these fats.
Unsaturated fats are less risky, but they still make you gain weight. You should eat them in moderation

A study published today supports recent efforts to rid the American diet of trans fats. In the study, women with the highest levels of trans fat in their blood had triple the risk of heart disease as those with the lowest levels.

"Humans cannot synthesize, or create, trans fatty acid. The only source is through diet," study chief Dr. Frank B. Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, said in a written statement.

The main source of trans fat in the diet is partially hydrogenated oils that are plentiful in cookies, crackers, pastries and fried foods. "Eliminating the use of partially hydrogenated oils and other sources of trans fat in the U.S. diet -- as long as saturated fat intake doesn't increase -- will likely help reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease," Hu said.

Hu and colleagues analyzed blood samples obtained from 32,826 nurses between 1989 and 1990 as part of a long-term study that looked at the effect of oral contraceptives, diet and lifestyle on the development of heart and other diseases.

During 6 years of follow-up, 166 women developed heart disease and these women were matched to 327 healthy control women.

According to a report in the journal Circulation, the amount of trans fat in red blood cells correlated significantly with the amount of trans fat consumed and was associated with increased levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and decreased levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.

After adjusting the data for multiple factors that might influence the results, women with the highest trans fatty acid content in red blood cells were three times more likely to develop heart disease than women with the lowest trans fatty acid content in red blood cells.

This study, the authors say, provides further evidence of the potentially harmful effects of trans fats on heart health.

"Trans fat intake," notes Hu, "has been substantially reduced in European countries, whereas intake in the U.S. is still relatively high. Recent efforts to eliminate trans fats from many foods and even from restaurant meals in cities such as New York and Philadelphia should have a beneficial effect on the population as a whole," he concludes.


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