Could trans fats increase your heart disease risk?

You’ve probably heard of trans fats before. And I’m sure what you have heard was not good news. This new news is not much different, except that the World Health Organization just announced that it plans to eliminate synthetic trans fats completely from the food supply by the year 2023.

What are trans fats?

trans fat, fat, fast food, unhealthy, burger, fries, pie

Trans fats are found in small amounts in whole fat dairy products and fatty meats. However, the majority of such fats is artificial.  This artificial trans fat is formed from a process called hydrogenation. This word may look familiar from food labels since a lot of processed products contain hydrogenated forms of certain oils. In other words, oils like vegetable oil have hydrogen added to it. This makes the oil become solid at room temperature.  This type of fat is less likely to spoil, which is likely why a lot of fast food restaurants use it for their fryers.

Over the years, research has shown that these types of fats increase risk of heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It can also decrease you HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and increase your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. These health risks are the major reason why the use of such fats in foods has gone down over the past several years.

What foods contain trans fats?

Fast foods like fries, doughnuts, or fried chicken commonly contain trans fats. However, baked goods like pies, or ready-made frostings are also a source of trans fats. Many companies though have already taken these types of fats out of their products. This is since the original statement from the Food and Drug Administration in 2013 that deemed trans fats no longer “generally recognized as safe.”

Trans Fat Ban by 2023

The World Health Organization (WHO) released on May 14, 2018, a guide called REPLACE. This step-by-step guide provides instructions on how to eliminate trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.  The six actions involved in this program includes:

REview  food sources of industrially-produced trans fats in the global landscape.

Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.

Legislate or enact regulations to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.

Assess and monitor the use of industrially-produced trans fats in the food supply as well as rates of consumption of such fats in the global diet.

Create widespread awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats.

Enforce compliance of policies and regulations involving industrially-produced trans fats.

Similar bans in Denmark and New York City in recent years have found that death rates from heart attacks went down significantly. Therefore, WHO hopes to eliminate trans fat from the food supply by the year 2023. This is part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Developmental Goals that hopes to reduce premature death from noncommunicable diseases by one-third by the year 2030.

Stick to healthy fats

Just because trans fats will be taken out of the food supply, that does not mean taste of foods will be affected. There are many healthier types of fats and oils that can replace artificial fats and will be better for your health. Such healthier fats and oils include:

  • Olive oils
  • Peanut oil
  • Fats from plant-based foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, and nut butters
  • Fats from fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, trout, or sardines

Other ways to reduce risk of heart disease

Besides replacing unhealthy fats with healthier fats, there are other ways to reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes that include:

  • Staying active for at least 30-40 minutes a day most days with moderate activity like walking.
  • Reducing stress by talking out problems with a counselor, engaging in yoga or meditation, or performing relaxation breathing.
  • Quitting unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as drinking alcohol or smoking.
  • Taking heart healthy supplements such as Alestra by Vita Sciences. Alestra contains natural ingredients like niacin, plant sterols, and garlic that research shows may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and promote heart health.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

American Heart Association (March 29, 2018) “Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention.”

Food and Drug Administration (June 16, 2015) “FDA Cuts Trans Fat in Processed Foods.”

Mayo Clinic (March 1, 2017) “Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health.”

Wolfram, T. (March 6, 2017) “Choose Healthy Fats.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eatright.org

World Health Organization (May 14, 2018) “WHO plan to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from global food supply.”

 

Leave a Reply