Not all trans fats are created equal

Natural trans fats produced by ruminant animals such as dairy and beef cattle are not detrimental to health and in fact show significant positive health effects, say food scientists who are trying to educate the public about the different types of trans fats.

“The body of evidence clearly points to a change needed in how nutrition labels are handled,” writes Dr. Spencer Proctor, in the latest edition of Advances in Nutrition. “Right now, in Canada and U.S. a substantial portion of natural trans fats content is included in the nutrition label trans fats calculation, which is misleading for the consumer. We need a reset in our approach to reflect what the new science is telling us.”

Trans fats in general have a negative reputation, but Proctor says trans fats from ruminant animals have different health effects than industrial trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

By definition, ruminant trans fat is naturally-occurring, found in meat and dairy foods. Industrial produced trans fat is a component of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which have been highly associated with cholesterol and coronary heart disease.

A change in how trans fat information is presented on nutrition labels would be a huge step forward, Proctor suggests. In some European countries, for example, natural trans fat is not included in the nutrition label calculation. Another approach may be to have separate listings for industrial trans fats and natural trans fats.

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Source: Advances in Nutrition

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