Dangers of Trans Fats - Trans Fatty Acids - Raises LDL Bad Cholesterol

Trans fatty acids, omega 6, the dangers for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer - good fats vs. bad fats.

You might be surprised to learn that trans fatty acids are found in foods such as french fries, crackers, breaded chicken, soup, potato chips and margarine.

McDONALD'S, the world's largest restaurant chain, has admitted its french fries contain a third more "trans" fats, which are linked to heart disease, than it had thought.

It said a new testing method it began using in December 2005 showed the level of potentially artery-clogging trans fat in a portion of large fries is eight grams, up from six, with total fat increasing to 30 grams from 25.

In New York City, restaurants will be barred from using most frying oils containing trans fats by July 1, 2007 and will have until July 2008 to eliminate the trans fats from all foods.

Not only do trans fats increase your risk of heart disease, trans fatty acids also interfere with the way your body deals with the "healthier" forms of fat found in foods like flaxseed oil or olive oil.

Trans fatty acids

According to a Harvard School of Public Health study (11-15-06) people who consume the highest levels of trans fatty acids, primarily from fast foods and packaged snacks, may have triple the risk of developing coronary heart disease than those consuming the lowest levels of trans fats.

The WHO (World Health Organization) has come out with serious warnings on the dangers of trans fats. For the first time, this world body has concluded that trans fatty acids are injurious to the heart. In fact, the report has produced convincing evidence on the fact that trans fat is much worse than saturated fats. When the healthful unsaturated fats are partially hydrogenated, the double bonds are rearranged, converting some to the trans configuration and shifting the double bonds along the chain. Unfortunately, this newly created trans fatty acid is an artery-clogger.

While saturated fats raises both the bad and the good cholesterol, trans fats raises the bad Low Density Lipo-protein (LDL) and suppress the good High Density Lipo-protein (HDL) cholesterol, making it even worse. They have now recommended that the intake of trans fats in the diet should be restricted to less than 1 per cent of the energy consumed by the body which works out to be less than 2 to 3 grams a day.

Earlier, the Institute of Medicine, US Food and Nutrition Board came out with an even stricter intake limit for trans fat. They called for "zero tolerance" of trans meaning trans fats should be avoided at all costs.

Two years ago Denmark declared war on killer fat, making it illegal for any food to have more than 2 percent transfats. Offenders now face hefty fines or even prison terms. The result? Today hardly anyone notices the difference. The french fries are still crispy. The pastries are still scrumptious. And the fried chicken is still tasty.

Denmark's experience offers a hopeful example for places like Canada and the U.S. state of New York, which are considering setting limits on the dangerous artery-clogging fats.

Transfatty acids are typically added to processed foods such as cookies, margarine and fast food. They are cheaper to produce than mono-saturated fats, and give a longer shelf life to the foods they are added to.

Even consuming less than five grams of transfat, the amount found in one piece of fried chicken and a side of french fries a day, has been linked with a 25 percent increased risk of heart disease.

"No other fat at these low levels of intake, has such harmful effects," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist at Harvard's School of Public Health. It is still too early to tell if removing transfat from food in Denmark has improved the country's health.

Although the Danish health ministry reports that cardiovascular disease has dropped by 20 percent in the last five years, similar reductions have been reported in other countries that are making an effort to combat heart disease by measures such as regulating the food and tobacco industries, and by educating the public about the need to exercise. In countries that are making no effort to regulate the amount of transfat in food, such as Hungary and Bulgaria, heart disease rates have continued to climb.

Denmark is the only country to have outlawed the fat, passing a law in June 2003 that made it illegal for any food to contain more than two percent of transfat. "We wanted to protect people so that they would not even have to know what transfat was," said Dr. Steen Stender, one of the leading Danish experts who lobbied for the anti-transfat law.

Though obesity rates are rising in Denmark, they are far below those of most countries: just 11.4 percent of the Danish population was obese in 2005, less than half of Britain's obesity rate, estimated at 23 percent.

When faced with the prospect of a transfat ban, industries typically rebel. Other countries in the European Union initially objected to Denmark's ban, arguing it would be economically unfair since their foods could not be legally imported into Denmark. Stender and other health experts say Denmark's transfat ban should be adopted worldwide.

"There's no reason it cannot be done elsewhere," he said, explaining that the food in Denmark is not markedly different from food anywhere else. "If you removed transfat from the planet, the only people who would feel the difference are the people who sell the transfat."

Over a number of years, the Danish Nutrition Council reviewed all available research on these potentially harmful fatty acids, concluding that to a large extent they are responsible for the development of cardiovascular diseases. Trans fatty acids are also believed to have an impact on the weight of the fetus and the development of adult diabetes (Type 2 diabetes), according to the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.

Trans fatty acids, also known as trans fats or TFAs, are found naturally in some foods, including beef, pork, lamb, butter and milk. But most of the trans fatty acids in your diet come from foods containing hydrogenated oil.

Hydrogenation involves taking fat that starts out as an unsaturated liquid (usually some kind of vegetable oil) and adding hydrogen. During industrial hydrogenation, oil is heated to extremely high temperatures. Then, it's mixed with nickel and hydrogen is forced through it. Some of the unsaturated fatty acids that aren't hydrogenated are converted into trans fatty acids.

The idea behind the hydrogenation of oil was to transform it into a product such as margarine to be used in place of butter. Hydrogenated oils also have a far longer shelf life than most oils.

The increase in the use of hydrogenated oils has occurred � in part � because of the demand for low-fat foods containing little or no saturated fat.

Unfortunately, hydrogenation changes the original oil into a form that your body wasn't really designed for. Because it doesn't recognize trans fatty acids as "foreign", your body uses them to "build" various parts of human cells.

The food you eat today is literally what you become tomorrow. Think about it � old skin and muscle cells are constantly replaced with new ones. And the material your body uses to accomplish this incredible feat of construction is the food you eat. That's why the type of fat you eat is so important.

A good example comes from research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [1]. A group of healthy adults was split into two groups, and assigned to one of two diets for three months.

The first group was fed a diet high in saturated fat. Group two consumed a diet high in monounsaturated fat. Some of the subjects in each group also received fish oil capsules (containing just under four grams of omega-3 fatty acids).

At the end of the study, all of the participants volunteered to have a small part of the muscle tissue in their thigh taken out and examined by the researchers. The type of fat found in muscle cells was directly related to the type of fat in the diet.

Flaxseed Oil

Harvard researchers Alberto Ascherio and Walter Willett, writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, report that trans fatty acids can "destroy" the essential fatty acids that are so important to your health [2].
Flaxseed oil for example, is high in alpha-linolenic acid. Your body converts alpha-linolenic acid into EPA and DHA, which are the same omega-3 fatty acids found in high-fat, cold-water fish such as salmon. Roughly 11 grams of alpha-linolenic acid is needed to produce one gram of DHA and EPA. However, a diet high in trans fatty acids will put the brakes on this conversion process. As a result, some of the benefits of flaxseed oil will be lost.

Moreover, several trials link trans fatty acids to an increased risk of heart disease [3]. According to Ascherio, replacing trans fatty acids with healthier types of fat would mean that 30,000 fewer people die prematurely from heart disease each year.

However, it's very difficult to tell from food labels exactly how many trans fatty acids you're getting in your diet. For example, if you see partially hydrogenated oil on the list of ingredients, you know the food contains some trans fatty acids. But you don't know exactly how much.


According to some estimates, we're consuming between 8 and 13 grams of trans fatty acids each day. Others put this figure far higher. The confusion comes from the fact that the amount of trans fatty acids varies considerably among foods within a category, reflecting differences in the fats and oils used in the manufacturing or preparation process.

For example, when researchers from the University of British Columbia analyzed the trans fatty acid content in 17 brands of crackers, they found between 1 and 13 grams of trans fatty acids per 100 grams of cracker. They estimate that trans fatty acid intake for the same diet could vary from 1.4 grams to 25.4 grams per day, simply because of variations in the manufacturing process [4].

There are also different types of trans fatty acids. One of the most abundant trans fatty acids in the diet is elaidic acid. But during hydrogenation, small amounts of other trans fatty acids are produced.

What this all means is that when you decide what to eat, it is important to consider not only the quantity of the food you eat, but the quality of the ingredients as well.
Anyone concerned about their health might choose a product labeled as low in saturated fat and cholesterol without realizing that it's high in trans fatty acids. Make sure to check food labels for the phrase "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil". Partially hydrogenated oils are usually lower in trans fatty acids. You'll find hydrogenated oil in most stick margarines, and foods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, french fries and potato chips. It's also common in ready-made meals.

The Food and Drug Administration now requires food manufacturers to list trans fat (i.e., trans fatty acids) on Nutrition Facts and some Supplement Facts panels. Scientific evidence shows that consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or 'bad') cholesterol levels that increase the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

Kraft, which has set up a Web page on trans fat as it relates to Oreo cookies, says that it is "actively exploring" ways to reduce the snack's trans fat content. Kraft states that a serving of three Oreos contains 7 g of fat, including 1.5 g of saturated fat and 2.5 g of trans fat. A serving of its reduced fat Oreos has 3.5 g of fat, including 1 g of saturated fat and 1 g of trans fat.

PepsiCo's Frito Lay division began including a trans fat line on some of its product labels. In addition, by switching from hydrogenated oil to corn oil, the company has eliminated trans fat from Doritos, Tostitos, and Cheetos. And several of Frito Lay's other snacks are also trans fat free.

Remember that the food you eat is more than just fuel. It provides the building blocks for the body you live in every day. It affects the way you think and feel � not just today � but in the coming weeks, months and years.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Cause Prostate Tumor Cell Growth In Culture

A study at the San Francisco VA Medical Center demonstrates that omega-6 fatty acids such as the fat found in corn oil promote the growth of prostate tumor cells in the laboratory.

Working with human prostate cancer cells in tissue culture, researchers identified for the first time a direct chain of causation: When introduced into prostate tumor cells in culture, omega-6 fatty acid causes the production of cPLA2, which then causes the production of the enzyme COX2. In turn, COX2 stimulates the release of PGE2, a hormone-like molecule that promotes cell growth.

What's important about this is that omega-6 fatty acids are found in corn oil and most of the oils used in bakery goods, which means that if you're eating a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids, it's possible that you're turning on this cancer cascade, which has been shown to be a common denominator in the growth of prostate, colorectal, and some breast cancers.

The study points out that 60 years ago in the United States, the dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, a beneficial fatty acid, was 1 to 2. Today, the ratio is 25 to 1. Over that same 60 years, the incidence of prostate cancer in the U.S. has increased steadily.

This is one more reason it is important to pay attention to the fats that you are eating. Substitute olive oil whenever possible, and take omega 3 fish capsules daily.


1. Andersson, A., Nalsen, C., Tengblad, S., & Vessby, B. (2002). Fatty acid composition of skeletal muscle reflects dietary fat composition in humans. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 76, 1222-1229
2. Ascherio, A., & Willett, W.C. (1997). Health effects of trans fatty acids. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 66, 1006S-1010S
3. Ascherio, A., Katan, M.B., Zock, P.L., Stampfer, M.J., & Willett, W.C. (1999). Trans fatty acids and coronary heart disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 24, 1994-1998.

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