Trans fat

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The trans fat hidden in many processed foods is even worse for your heart than the saturated fat you know about.

What is trans fat?
Trans fat is found mainly in deep-fried fast foods and processed foods made with margarine or shortening. It's created by a process called hydrogenation that's used by food manufacturers to improve the stability of vegetable oils and to convert liquid oils into the solid fats needed to get the right consistency in foods such as cakes and pastries.

Real fears
Experts worldwide are becoming increasingly concerned about the health impact of the trans fat found in many processed foods. Weight for weight, it's probably worse for your heart than the saturated fat that we all know to avoid. Denmark has banned the sale of food products in which trans fat is more than two percent of the total fat content.

What's on the label?
Food manufacturers in Australia aren't required to include trans fat in the nutrition information panel unless they make a claim about cholesterol or unsaturated fats. If they make no claim, they need only give the levels of total and saturated fat. So foods can contain trans fat in addition to their saturated fat and you wouldn't know. CHOICE wants it to be mandatory for food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fat on the label.

What we found
CHOICE tested a representative sample of processed foods from supermarkets and fast food outlets. Of the 55 foods we tested, 18 wouldn't be permitted in Denmark because trans fat is more than two percent of their total fat.

How to avoid trans fat
Until manufacturers are required to tell you the level of trans fat on the label, your best chances of minimising the amount you eat are to:

  • Avoid deep-fried fast foods and take-aways.
  • Avoid manufactured biscuits, cakes and pies.
  • Choose a spread for your toast and sandwiches that's low in saturated and trans fat.

Village RoadshowIt's not just magic: How Harry Potter is good for our health Getty ImagesTruth bomb: Punishing kids for lying won't make them truth-tellers Getty ImagesGas stovetops could be increasing your child's risk of asthma: study Getty ImagesParacetamol overdose leading cause of liver failure in Aussie and NZ kids