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Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

Heart Attacks and Strokes Reduced After Ban on Trans Fats

Most nutrition experts stray away from labeling foods into "good" and "bad" categories and focus on "better-for-you" options and the concept of moderation. But they also agree, and research confirms, trans fat holds no nutritional value in the diet, and causes harm to the body.


What Are Trans Fats?

Also known as trans fatty acids and partially hydrogenated oils, trans fat can be found in nature or manufactured. However, their minute natural form found in meat and dairy products is not the primary concern, but rather the manmade version that became heavily embedded in the food supply that are commonly found in fried foods, pastries, and other processed products. The journey of worrisome trans fat began when when food manufacturers realized solid fats increase both shelf-life and flavor stability in many baked and packaged foods and aimed to accomplish the desirable characteristics. Food scientists started to manipulate liquid oils with hydrogen (hence hydrogenation or hydrogenated oils) and reconfiguring its chemical makeup, specifically from a cis to trans configuration (hence trans fat). And though the resulting characteristics of trans fat may appear desirable from the shelf, there is no nutritional benefits of eating trans fats at this time and has shown detrimental effects to health, including the health of the heart.

Trans Fat, Heart Attacks and Stroke

The consequences of trans fat have not been dealt out lightly, nor should not be, as their consumption has been shown to...

...raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol in the blood, which may build plaque in the artery walls, a harmful condition known as atherosclerosis. Too much plaque can obstruct airways and cause a clot to rupture, which may ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke with the potential to be fatal. 

...lowers high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps move the "bad" cholesterol out from the artery walls and ultimately excreted out of the body.

The physiological effects of trans fat have ultimately translated to the disheartening statistics. Individuals who consume a diet high in trans fat...

...are 21 percent more likely to develop heart disease, increase their risk of heart attacks as much as one and a half times while growing the risk of heart disease mortality (or death) by 28 percent, and have a 34 percent risk of overall mortality compared to those with a lower trans fat intake.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes eliminating trans fat could prevent an estimated 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease annually, and new data confirms such notion and signifies the importance of the trans fat ban. While the ban is set to take place in 2018, New York cities and counties were among the first to strip out trans fat in restaurants 10 years ago in 2007. Reports indicate an additional 6.2 percent decline in hospital admissions for myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke among populations living in counties with versus without trans fat restrictions.

But more specifically on the trans fat ban, the FDA has ruled that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer "generally recognized as safe," also known as the GRAS list. The ban means food manufacturers must not add trans fat into any sort of food product without the FDA's review and approval, though the elimination of trans fat entirely has already shown great promise in the health world. But until the trans fat ban is officially implemented, stay clear of trans fat by taking advantage of the Nutrition Facts label, limiting fried foods, along with these top 5 sources of trans fats.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on May 22, 2017. Updated on May 13, 2019.


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