Not all trans fat is created equal: Could ‘natural’ trans fats actually be good for you?
Ethan A. Huff
2011 October 29
If you were to ask any random person on the street today if trans fats are bad for health, he or she would most likely respond in the affirmative. But a new study out of the University of Alberta (UA) in Canada clarifies a common misunderstanding about trans fats — natural, health-promoting, ruminant trans fats are far different from the synthetic, health-destroying, industrial trans fats found in many processed foods.
In many countries, including in the US, there is no differentiation made between natural and industrial trans fats — they are all labeled in the same ingredient category on food packaging, and are all considered harmful. And researchers allege that this error needs to be changed, noting that people can actually benefit from the consumption of natural trans fats.
Spencer Proctor, a researcher in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science and director of the Metabolic and Cardiovascular Diseases Laboratory at UA, and his colleagues arrived at this conclusion after conducting an in-depth review of different types of trans fats. They found that ruminant trans fats found in meat and dairy products have a vastly different fatty acid profile than industrial trans fats like hydrogenated vegetable oil.
The natural trans fats found in organic, pasture-based animal meat and dairy products can actually help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer, while industrial trans fats found in various processed foods lead to conditions like high cholesterol and coronary heart disease.
“A change in how trans fat information is presented on nutrition labels would be a huge step forward,” said Proctor. “Right now, in Canada and the US, 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.”
The study confirms what a previous one published by Flora Wang, another UA researcher, found back in 2008 — far from harmful, natural trans fats actually help to reduce the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes (http://www.sciencedaily.com/release…).