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Nutrition With Paula Mee - Trans fatty acids and hydrogenated vegetable oils with Paula Mee

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Trans fats were discovered in 1903 when oil was boiled to more than 260C in the presence of a metal catalyst such as nickel. The result was that its molecular structure mutated, turning the oil into a hard, greasy, grey lard-like substance.

The original purpose was as a cheap form of candle wax. The cost and convenience meant that it was soon used in food production.

Why Ban Trans Fats
. Ingesting just 2 grams a day of hydrogenated vegetable oil (the amount contained in just 1 donut fried in this type of fat) increases the risk of heart disease by 23% (Independent Newspaper, June, 2008)
. According to UK Standards Agency trans fats are "Harmful and have no nutritional benefits." And "The effects of trans fats may be worse than saturated fats."
. Hydrogenated vegetable oil has been linked to:
Increased cholesterol levels
Inflammatory conditions
Type 2 diabetes
Liver problems
(British Medical Journal, July, 2006)
. According to the New England Journal of Medicine " from a nutritional standpoint, the consumption of trans-fatty acids results in considerable potential harm but no potential benefit."
. According to Oxford University people should reduce or stop their intake of trans fats to minimise the related risk of coronary heart disease.
. There is an alternative. A new process called interesterification means that trans fats-containing oils can be replaced at no extra coat to the food industry.


. In Denmark hydrogenated vegetable oil was removed from food chain 5 years ago. Since then heart disease has dropped there by 40%
. New York City in 2006 banned all but tiny quantities of trans fats in the food served in its 24,000 restaurants. All restaurants, cafés and street stalls will be required to limit the trans fats in any item served from their menus to no more than half a gram. Currently one serving of chips can contain up to eight grams.
. Kentucky Fried Chicken in USA, Oct 2006, removed all trans fats from from the cooking of nearly all items on sale in its restaurants.

The World Health Organisation has recommended that governments around the world phase out partially hydrogenated oils if trans fat labeling doesn't spur significant reductions in these foods.
The Irish Department of Health

Statement - Irish Supermarkets

SUPERQUINN: The vast majority of Superquinn's own-brand products (>99%) are now free from hydrogenated fat including all ready meals, salads, salad dressings, pre-pack bakery, pizza's, quiches, fish, poultry, dips, sauces, vegetable accompaniments, Eat Better (healthier option) products and Start Smart (children's range) products. We are currently in the process of replacing the last few remaining own-brand products that contain hydrogenated fats with hydrogenated fat free versions, and expect this process to be complete by early 2009.

TESCO: Tesco Ireland stopped using hydrogenated fats in the majority of our own brand products since 2007. We are in the process of phasing out the use of hydrogenated fats in the small remainder of products.

SUPERVALU and DUNNES STORES chose not to comment.

Paula's tips on avoiding hydrogenated fats
Fresh is best! Stay away from processed foods. Cook using the minimum amount of oil and try not to add oil where possible.

N.B. the trans fats found in fresh meat and milk are not bad for you.

Department of Health and Children

There are no plans to restrict levels of trans fatty acids in food products
in Ireland. Restriction of such a food component is not feasible as
trans-fats are naturally present in meat, milk and dairy products and it would not be advisable to restrict the consumption of these

A recent FSAI survey examining the level of trans fatty acids in retail products confirms that the food industry has lowered the amount of trans-fats in food, but the high levels of saturated fats still present a risk to heart health.

At present in the EU, it is not mandatory for the presence of trans fats to
be declared on a food label. The FSAI, however, has supported the
inclusion of trans fatty acids in the proposal for mandatory nutrition labelling on all foodstuffs (proposed Regulation on the Provision of Food Information to Consumers). The Department of Health & Children is currently finalizing its position paper on this proposal and hopes to submit this to the European Commission soon.

In addition, Ireland has called for the inclusion of trans fatty acids in the development of nutrient profiles and inclusion in the proposed conditions for use for claims relating to other fatty acids (Regulation 1924/2006/EC on Nutrition and Health Claims) in order to protect against the replacement of saturated fatty acids with harmful trans unsaturated fatty acids.

Paula Mee