AHA fat campaign warns consumers to be wary of trans free

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Trans fat

The American Heart Association (AHA) has launched a new educational
campaign to help consumers limit the amounts of trans fats in their
diets, while not defaulting to more saturated fats.

The campaign features an 'edutainment' website, including an interactive 'fat calculator' and examples of products containing trans and saturated fats. As stated in this week's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association,​ the major priority of the campaign is to encourage replacement of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils with oils high in unsaturated fats. The journal includes the proceedings of a trans fat conference that the AHA convened to better understand the challenges the country faces as it moves to oils without trans fat. At the same time, the association is highlighting the negative health impacts of saturated fat. "'Trans fat-free' doesn't automatically mean 'healthy': foods marked 'trans fat-free' may still contain saturated fat, the other bad fat, and be high in calories." "Trans fat has received a lot of well-deserved scrutiny - at the same time, while it's critical that we continue to push aggressively to minimize its consumption, trans fat is just one part of the 'big fat picture,'"​ said Robert Eckel, chair of AHA's trans fat task force and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center at Denver. "It's equally important that we avoid increasing saturated fat in its place. Both trans and saturated fats raise LDLs, the bad cholesterol, and increase the risk of developing heart disease."​ AHA's campaign breaks down "complex"​ fat information for consumers, focusing on the 'bad' fats - trans and saturated fats - and their healthier alternatives. ​The association states that trans fats are particularly found in commercial baked goods (such as doughnuts, pastries, muffins, cakes and cookies), in fried foods, (French fries, breaded chicken nuggets and breaded fish), snack foods (crackers), and other foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, vegetable shortening, or hard margarine. Saturated fat occurs naturally in many foods, says AHA. Primary sources of saturated fats in the human diet are animal sources, including beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef fat, lard and cream, butter, cheese, and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat milk. These foods also contain cholesterol. Some plant foods, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also contain saturated fat. 'Better' fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, says AHA. Major sources of monounsaturated fat include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocados, and many nuts and seeds. Major sources of polyunsaturated fat include a number of vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil), fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout) and some nuts and seeds. According to AHA, on average, American adults consume approximately 2.2 percent of total calories from trans fat and four to five times as much saturated fat a day - far more than the limits recommended by the association. The personalized My Fat Translator tool in the new campaign is designed to help consumers better understand the recommended fat limits and make smarter choices. Users can input their age, gender, height, weight and level of physical activity into the calculator tool, and in return receive their personal daily limits for total fat, saturated fat and trans fat consumption. The website also uses two animated characters - the Bad Fat Brothers: Sat and Trans, which AHA claims will give consumers a new way to look at and remember which fats are bad, why they are bad and where they can be found. For more information, click here​.

Related topics: Fats & oils

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