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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diet and Nutrition > Trans Fats: Functions and Sources

Trans Fats

Alternate Names : Hydrogenated Fats, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

Trans Fats | Functions and Sources

In what food source is the nutrient found?

Trans fats are found in foods made with or cooked in hydrogenated vegetable oil. These include crackers and fried snack foods, such as potato chips. Trans fats are found in baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, and doughnuts. Margarine and hydrogenated vegetable shortening also contain trans fats. Trans fats are found naturally in some meats and dairy products.

Foods containing hydrogenated fat do not go stale as quickly as foods containing unsaturated fat. Foods made with it can stay on supermarket shelves longer. It gives commercially prepared foods a taste and texture similar to regular fat. It is less expensive than butter and more stable than unsaturated fat. Hydrogenated vegetable oil is often chosen for deep-frying. Many restaurants use it.

If the ingredients list includes partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, then the food contains trans fats. Ingredients are listed on all food packages. However, trans fats are not listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Since there are no standard methods for measuring trans fats, it's difficult to estimate the trans fatty acid content of food items. The FDA is considering requiring the listing of the amount of trans fat in a food on the label.

How does the nutrient affect the body?

Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol levels. LDL is the bad carrier for cholesterol. Trans fats may also lower HDL cholesterol. HDL is the good carrier for cholesterol. Trans fats tend to raise total blood cholesterol levels. However, they don't raise cholesterol as much as saturated fatty acids do. It's not clear if trans fats that occur naturally have the same effect as those produced by hydrogenating vegetable oils.

The relationship between trans fat and cancer risk is not clear. Some research has suggested that trans fats might increase the risk of breast cancer. Other equally good studies have not confirmed this observation. The best thing is to reduce the intake of all solid fats in order to reduce the risk of heart disease and, perhaps, cancer.

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Trans Fats: Overview & Description


Author: Susan Harrow Rago, RD, MS
Reviewer: Melissa Sanders, PharmD
Date Reviewed: 06/11/01

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