Trans-fatty Acids: Are They Rotten In Denmark?

Well, maybe not rotten, but after a yearlong review by a Danish task force, trans-fatty acids didn’t exactly come out smelling like roses. Trans-fatty acids, or TFAs are found in such foods as margarine and shortening, as well as packaged foods like crackers, cookies and chips. For many years, trans-fatty acids were believed to be a healthier alternative to their saturated counterparts, such as butter and tropical oils. In contrast, the Danish report found that trans-fatty acids have the same, if not greater, harmful effect on the development of heart disease.

The report, published in Clinical Science, also demonstrated a link between the consumption of trans-fatty acids and fetal growth. AS the consumption of trans-fatty acids increases, birth weight and head circumference decrease. Researchers believe that TFAs, which are transferred from mother to baby through the placenta, may interfere with the fetus’s ability to use essential fats, which are necessary for development.

The connection between trans-fatty acids and an increased risk of cancer were less convincing. The task force did not find existing research sufficient to establish such a link at this time.

It is clear from the research that, in addition to reducing our consumption of saturated fats, we would be wise to watch the trans fatty acids as well. That means eating fewer processed foods like those mentioned above, as well as avoiding anything fried at a fast-food restaurant. And, of course, keep your total fat intake to 30 percent or less of your total daily intake.

Daryl Conant, M.Ed.