Monday, August 13, 2012

Trans fats, food labels and your health

   In 2008, Howlett et al published the results of a study that described several problems with regard to the public's understanding of trans fat or trans fatty acids (TFAs). A type of fat found in foods.
   The Nutrient Facts Panel (NFP) on food products begain listing trans fats, under the total fat heading, in 2006.  At about the same time, the city of NY and Philadelphia placed bans on TFAs in restaurant foods.
    Because of the restrictions, people may know that trans fats are bad, but not exactly why or in what amounts.  This is what the researchers determined in 2008.  Considering that knowledge levels may not have changed since then, I want to take a few minutes to enlighten you.
   Trans fats are created in a process called partial hydrogenation (phvo).  (They also occur naturally, but infrequently and in small amounts in certain foods).  Trans fats are similar to saturated fats, but there is NO safe level.  They are a created fat and have no nutritive value.  In fact, their only dietary impact is one of harm -  they are often referred to as a negative nutrient.
   Trans fat is responsible for increased low density lipoprotein and decreased high density lipoprotein.  That would be your LDL and HDL in a blood test. In this way, trans fats are associated with the development of heart disease and heart attacks.  Everyone should keep their intake of Trans fat as low as possible.  Zero is a nice goal.  This is especially important for people with high blood pressure, diagnosed heart disease or diabetes.  Yes, diabetes.  We often think of that illness as a sugar problem, but most diabetics die from heart disease.
   So Trans fats are bad and you should avoid them.  How do you know if a food product is high or low in them?  If the NFP does not say zero, can you look at the % DV and decide?  Recall that if something is 5% or less it is considered low.  
Ah this must be my Smuckers Label - what a great source of GOOD fats!
   Take a look at the label.  As you can see, there is no % value given for Trans fat, only the amount of grams.  That is because the FDA has not provided us with a daily value.  This is very important...
***** Any amount of Trans Fat is too much.  Therefore, if it 'only' has four or five grams of Trans fat - that is still a HIGH amount.  It is confusing because when you look at fat and saturated fat grams - 5 can be considered moderate and 3 considered low, but in Trans fat 3 is NOT LOW.

Howlett, E., Burton, S., & Kozup, J. (2008). How modification of the nutrition facts panel influences consumers at risk for heart disease: the case of trans fat. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 27(1), 83-97

No comments: