Trans-Fats (Trans-Fatty Acids)

Diet plays an important role in the risk of developing Cardiovascular Heart Disease.  In a healthy diet, 20-35% of your total daily calories can come from fats or oils.  Fats (fatty acids) can be divided into 4 categories: Saturated, Mono-unsaturated, Poly-unsaturated, and Trans-fat.  The type of fat consumed appears to be more important than the amount of total fat consumed in developing cardiovascular heart disease.  Saturated fat should account for less than 7% of your total daily calories and trans-fat should be avoided.

Saturated fats and trans-fats are associated with increased risk of heart disease.  Trans-fats increase LDL “bad” cholesterol and lower HDL “good” cholesterol.  This combination can lead to increased risk of developing fatty deposits or plaque in your arteries which can block blood flow causing heart attack or stroke.

Most trans-fat is found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil which is formed through an industrial process which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature, which increases shelf life.  Common foods containing trans-fats include: store-bought snacks, chips, fried foods, french fries, cookies, cakes, margarine, nondairy creamer, etc.

In the United States, if a food has less than 0.5 g of trans-fat per serving, the food label can read 0 g trans-fat. When you check a food label for trans-fat, also check the food’s ingredient list for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which would indicate the food contains some trans-fat even if the amount is below 0.5 g.  Eating several portions of foods containing some trans-fat could boost your total intake of trans-fat to a level high enough to affect your health.

Healthier alternative choices include:

1) mono-unsaturated fats – found in canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, sunflower oil, almonds, etc.

2) poly-unsaturated fats – found in safflower oil, corn oil, walnuts, sesame oil, flaxseed oil, etc.

3) unsaturated fats with omega-3 – salmon, tuna, walnuts, flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybean oil, etc.

Remember, lowering your total daily fat intake and making good choices regarding the type of fat consumed can lower your risk of cardiovascular heart disease.


Donald Fillman, MD