You've heard that trans fat is bad for you.
And since 2006 you've been able to scan food labels for the presence of trans fat and have been shying away from products that do.
But maybe you've had a question nagging at you - if trans fat is being removed, is it being replaced with saturated fat?
The results of a recent investigation suggest no.
Researchers reviewed a variety of store bought and restaurant foods that had been reformulated to reduce trans fat content - a full 95% of the supermarket products and 80% of the restaurant foods had reduced trans fat content to near zero.
In addition, 65% of the store bought and 90% of the restaurant foods contained less or essentially the same amount of saturated fat as before reformulation.
Why be concerned about this in the first place?
To quote directly from The New England Journal of Medicine article (NEJM 2010;362:2037 - parentheses added by me):
"Consumption of trans fatty acids raises levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol and triglycerides, lowers levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol, induces an inflammatory response, and even at low levels of intake...significantly increases the risk of coronary events."
In plain English, eating a lot of trans fat is not good for you, at least because doing so places you at higher risk for a heart attack.
Had food manufacturers instead used saturated fat in their products there might still have been reason for concern, since high intakes of saturated fat has long been considered a risk factor for heart disease, as well as other illnesses.
Recent data, however, suggest that saturated fat may have been getting a bad rap over the past few decades, at least as regards the risk for heart disease. It appears that highly refined carbohydrates / highly processed foods may be much worse for our hearts.
This doesn't mean a green light on eating all the high-saturated fat foods we like - there are still health concerns in this regard, and moderation seems prudent.
But at least now we know that foods we enjoy that used to contain trans fats probably are healthier for us than they were before.
So it might be just a little easier to be well.
And that's reason to smile.
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