Those who watch a lot of television and consume more sugary drinks are more likely to eat industrial TFA found in fast food, white bread and processed baked goods, the team, led by Alexander Scholz, Universidad Miguel Hernandez said.
Industrial TFA in particular have been conclusively linked with heart disease and other illness.
The study was based on data from 1,793 children who were four or five-years-old in 2009 – 2012, taken from the INMA project (INfancia y Medio Ambiente, Spanish for Childhood and Environment), a Spanish study on dietary and environmental effects during pregnancy and early childhood.
“The present study shows that the TFA intake is too high in a relevant proportion of children in Spain. It should be reduced to prevent possible future health problems,” the researchers said.
Yet more research is needed into TFA hazards in pre-school children, since the majority of existing data focuses on adults, the team conceded.
Natural vs industrial TFA
However, if new findings are anything to go by, the high TFA consumption may not be all bad since the children ate more natural TFAs than industrial. Having parents from countries other than Spain was associated with higher natural TFA intake, the team added.
There have been suggestions that natural TFAs – occurring in animal products such as milk and red meat – are not as unhealthy as their industrial counterparts.
At the very least, evidence for negative effects in natural trans-fats isn’t sufficient as it is for industrial, the American Heart Association notes. The British Heart Foundation agrees it’s the industrial TFAs which have conclusive evidence of coronary risks stacked up against them.
However, until it is proven natural TFA are not harmful, parents should make efforts to reduce total TFA intake, Scholz's team said.
“Further research is needed to investigate the specific effects of natural and industrial TFA in the pathogenesis of diseases,” they noted.
“Meanwhile, their exact roles remain unclear, parents should be aware of the main sources of TFA in order to reduce the total TFA intake of their children.”
TFA intake was estimated using a validated food frequency questionnaire and associated factors – such as watching television – were evaluated using multiple linear regression.
The questionnaire included 105 food items, and parents were asked to report how often their kids ate the foods within the previous year.
The mean daily intake for total TFA was 1.36g (median 1.30g) per day, with industrial TFA making up 0.60g of the daily total and natural TFA 0.71g.
Around 10% of the children took over 1% of their energy intake from TFA.
“We show that in this population more than 50% of the total TFA intake was of natural origin and that about 10% of the children of the INMA study obtained at least 1% of their energy intake from TFA, thus exceeding the limit recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” the team added.
The WHO recommendation stands at less than 1% TFA per day.
Published 10 October 2016, doi:10.3390/nu8100625
“Dietary Intake of Trans Fatty Acids in Children Aged 4–5 in Spain: The INMA Cohort Study”
Authors: Alexander Scholz, et al.