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Consumer Reports ® says, "You've
probably heard about the meltdown of margarine's reputation. While hard
margarine contains much less artery-clogging saturated fat than butter, it's
actually loaded with another type of fat--trans fat--that may be just as bad for
your arteries. But you may not know that the same trans fat lurks in thousands
of other foods. Fast-food chains now fry with vegetable oil, which is low in
saturated fat. Similarly, a host of packaged foods--such as doughnuts, cakes,
fruit pies, pot pies, popcorn, puffs, chips, crackers, cookies, croissants, and
frozen waffles--are made with apparently heart-friendly vegetable oil. But the
oil in all of those fast or packaged foods may have been chemically altered. So
it may contain lots of trans fat--which is not listed on labels... The three
largest or longest epidemiologic studies tend to support that notion. In the
Nurses Health Study from Harvard, those who consumed the most trans fat were 53
percent more likely to have a heart attack than those who consumed the
least." [From "Trans fat:
Unlabeled and unhealthy", November 1998].
"Trans Fat to Debut on Label" - Nutrition News Focus reports (Nov. 17),
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that trans
fatty acids will be required on the nutrition label. Currently
they simply disappear into total fat content. There will be a period
of public comment, a final rule will be published, and manufacturers
will have two years to put this information on the side of the
package; so it may be as late as 2002 before you see an extra line
for this type of fat.
The health effects of trans fats are heatedly debated. Most evidence
shows that they raise total and LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering
the good HDL cholesterol. The debate is really about how bad these
fats are. Some believe they are the worst while others think they are
not as bad as saturated fat for heart disease. However, there are
many contradictory studies on this and many studies have not been
well controlled enough to make firm conclusions.
HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Food manufacturers use
hydrogenated fats mostly to replace saturated fats, because they have
similar functional effects in fried and baked products. It is likely
that the trans fat content of foods will decrease when they have to
appear on the label."
Fat Hard Fat" - Nutrition News Focus reports (Jul 27),
"Trans fatty acids have been controversial for over 20 years. Scientists
don't agree on how much we are eating or on how bad they actually are."
Fats: What Myths Are Made From" - Nutrition News Focus
reports (Jul 27), "Trans fatty acids have many useful functional properties
in foods. They are not there because the manufacturers don't care about our
health. If you want a cracker that does not go rancid during the summer or
leaves a greasy stain on the pantry shelf, you cannot make it with a highly
unsaturated fat like soybean oil. If you are not overdoing the snack food, this
should not be a concern."
- My November 1997 critique of the Nurses Health Study on dietary fat -- the
primary study Consumer Reports uses to scare readers about trans fats.