Suzanne Havala Hobbs, DrPH, RD

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

It's been more than a year since the FDA began requiring that the trans fat content of processed foods be listed on the "Nutrition Facts" label.

In response to the regulation, many food manufacturers have stopped using this harmful fat. However, not all foods are free of trans fat -- and it may be "hidden" unless you know what to look for on food labels.

Recent development: New York City officials have banned the use of trans fat in restaurant food.

Why all the fuss?

There's no question that trans fat is bad for your health. It raises LDL "bad" cholesterol and lowers HDL "good" cholesterol... and it increases inflammation in the body, a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other serious medical conditions.


Trans fat (short for trans-fatty acids) has been used since the early 1900s, when food scientists discovered that if they pumped hydrogen through liquid vegetable oil, it turned into a viscous substance -- known as partially hydrogenated oil. Trans fat not only created flaky crusts and the texture, or "mouth feel," of butter, but also extended the shelf life of foods when grocery stores began appearing in the US.

Because the fat served as an excellent substitute for lard, which spoiled easily, and butter, which was expensive, it became a mainstay in margarine, commercial baked goods, pastries, cookies, crackers and deep-fried foods as well as frozen dinners, chips and even some cereals.


According to the FDA trans fat labeling regulation, a food product can be made to appear to be free of trans fat even if it contains small amounts of the fat.

For example, the nutrition facts label of a food that contains trans fat, in an amount less than 0.5 g per serving, may claim "zero trans fat" -- or it may omit a trans fat listing but include a footnote that reads: "Not a significant source of trans fat."

That's why it's important to look at the ingredient list as well as the nutrition facts label of all food products. If "partially hydrogenated oil," "shortening" or "vegetable shortening" appears in the ingredient list -- but trans fat is not listed on the nutrition facts label -- the food contains trans fat, but less than 0.5 g per serving.

Such small amounts of trans fat may, at first glance, seem insignificant, but that's not the case if you consume multiple daily servings of the food, as is common for many people.

Some snack foods, such as granola bars, tout "zero trans fat" per serving, while listing partially hydrogenated oil among the ingredients. Example: Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars state zero grams of trans fat per one-bar (24 g) serving but list partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil in the ingredient list. Aunt Jemima Complete Pancake & Waffle Mix also states zero grams of trans fat per serving (two four-inch pancakes), yet the ingredient list includes partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

Even some products promoted for their health benefits contain partially hydrogenated oil. For example, Benecol is a soft-spread substitute for margarine or butter that is advertised as having cholesterol-lowering effects, when two to three servings a day are consumed in place of other spreads. But Benecol's ingredient list includes partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

Important: Polyunsaturated fat, found in corn, soybean and safflower oils... and monounsaturated fat, found in olives, avocados, nuts, and olive, canola and peanut oils... reduce heart disease risk by lowering LDL and raising HDL levels.

Taken from www.bottomlinesecrets.com

Kay’s Note: It’s generally agreed among health experts that Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the healthiest oil to use. If a person is allergy prone, it’s best to stay away from corn, soybean, canola and peanut oils.