Trans Fats: Are you one of the 21%?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that most American's know they need to avoid trans fats, but only 20% actually knew which foods contained trans fats.

    A University of Colorado researcher, Dr. Robert Eckel, surveyed 1,000 US adults. Here's what he found:

    • 92% of Americans have heard of trans fat.
    • 73% of Americans know trans fats increase the risk of heart disease.
    • 77% of Americans know saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease.
    • 56% of American's know partially hydrogenated fats are linked to increase heart disease risk.

    Now, that doesn't sound so bad. Most people are aware of the health dangers associated with trans fats, right? Well, here's the not so good survey findings:

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    • Only 21% of Americans could identify 3 food sources of trans fat without assistance
    • 46% couldn't name a trans fat source on their own
    • 53% percent could identify a food containing trans fat (such as French fries and donuts) when given a list

    If you are one of the 21% above, here is some information on trans fats so you can reduce trans fats in your diet to promote heart health.

    Trans fat is a processed fat, produced as a by-product when hydrogen is added to make a substance more solid at room temperature. For example, margarine is hydrogenated vegetable oil - hydrogen was added and the by-product trans fat is produced. Although, it should be noted that many margarine's have changed production procedures so the trans fatty acid by-product is not produced. Trans fats have long been a favorite of the food industry for their increased shelf life over conventional oils. Unlike natural fats, however, trans fats have no nutritional value and drastically increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and death. Trans fats are just as bad for heart health (if not worse) than saturated fats. Trans fat increased LDL cholesterol levels and lowers HDL cholesterol.

    Many processed foods contain trans fat, such as baked and fried foods, so read the food labels. As of January 2006, most manufacturers are required to list trans fatty acid content on the food label. Also, check the ingredient list for the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" as a sign that the product contains trans fat.

    Be sure to sign-up for the free e-course How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps provided by dietitian Lisa Nelson at

Published On: December 14, 2009