Trans fats, also known as trans-fatty acids, are a type of unsaturated fat that is formed when liquid vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated, a process that increases the shelf life and stability of the oils. Trans fats are found in a variety of foods, including fried foods, baked goods, snack foods, and non-dairy creamers.
Trans fats have been shown to have a number of negative health effects, including an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. This is because trans fats can raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood, which can contribute to the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to reduce the amount of trans fats in the food supply. Many food manufacturers have reformulated their products to contain fewer or no trans fats, and many countries have implemented regulations or bans on the use of trans fats in food.
It is generally recommended to avoid or limit the consumption of trans fats as much as possible, as they can have negative effects on health. Instead, it is advisable to choose foods that are made with healthier fats, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and nuts.
Q: What is trans fat?
A: Trans fat (also know as trans fatty acids) is a specific type of fat formed when liquid oils are made into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine. However, a small amount of trans fat is found naturally primarily in some animal-based foods.
Q: Where will I find trans fat?
A: Vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.
Trans fat behaves like saturated fat by raising low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Trans fat can be found in some of the same foods as saturated fat, such as vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Trans fat is made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil – a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods containing these fats. Usually the hydrogen atoms at a double bond are positioned on the same side of the carbon chain. However, partial hydrogenation reconfigures some double bonds and the hydrogen atoms end up on different sides of the chain. This type of configuration is called “trans” (means “across” in Latin). The structure of a trans unsaturated chemical bond looks like the diagram below.
Trans Fat (i.e., trans fatty acids)
Hydrogen atoms are on opposites sides of the chain of carbon atoms at the carbon-carbon double bond.
Q: Is it possible for a food product to list the amount of trans fat as 0 g on the Nutrition Facts panel if the ingredient list indicates that is contains “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil?”
A: Yes. Food manufacturers are allowed to list amounts of trans fat with less than 0.5 gram (1/2 g) as 0 (zero) on the Nutrition Facts panel. As a result, consumers may see a few products that list 0 gram trans fat on the label, while the ingredient list will have “shortening” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on it. This means the food contains very small amounts (less than 0.5 g) of trans fat per serving.