By Jorge GomezFebruary 12, 2007
FORT LEE, Va. (Army News Service, Feb. 12, 2007) - New York City is banning trans fatty acids from its restaurants. Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy's, Chili's and Ruby Tuesday have already eliminated trans fat from their menus.
The preoccupation with removing trans fat comes from the latest research showing that even small amounts of this fat in the diet can have harmful health effects, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Tens of thousands of heart attacks and cardiac arrests could be prevented if trans fat were removed from the industrial food supply, according to HSPH researchers.
Studies show that for every 2 percent of calories consumed from trans fat, the risk of coronary heart disease increases by 23 percent.
Dining facilities at Fort Lee and many other installations are moving away from trans fat products and oils, said Johnnie Durant, Installation Food Program manager.
"We are trying to buy as many products as we can that don't have any trans fat, like canola oil," Durant said. But, "we're looking at a new oil because canola oil doesn't fry as well as regular trans fat oil. We're concerned about it because of the health of the Soldier."
For someone who consumes 2,000 calories per day, 2 percent of total calories represents 40 calories from trans fat - about the amount found in a medium order of French fries.
Since Jan. 1, 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to list the amount of trans fat per serving in their products on the Nutrition Fact panel.
However, trans fat does not have to be listed if the total amount of fat in the food is less than 0.5 gram per serving. In other words, a product with 0.49 grams of trans fat per serving does not need trans fat listed on the nutrition label, even though two servings of crackers could very well amount to nearly a gram.
"Sometimes the labels can be misleading, so people should read the ingredients," said Capt. Suzanne Akuley, dietician and nutrition instructor for the Army Center of Excellence, Subsistence.
"Ingredients are listed from the most to the least amount. If there's any mention of 'hydrogenated' or 'partially hydrogenated,' it means there's trans fat in there somewhere."
For example, a label on the top corner of a bag of tortilla chips may say the product includes no trans fat, and the Nutrition Panel may list 0 grams of trans fat per serving. But, the ingredients list "partially hydrogenated soybean."
If the same particular brand of chips actually contain 0.4 grams of trans fat per serving, the consumer will take in nearly a gram of trans fat after eating only 22 chips.
Vegetable shortening is another ingredient that contains trans fat.
Trans fat is worse for cholesterol levels because it raises the "bad" (Low Density Lipoprotein) and lowers the "good" (High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol, Akuley said.
LDL is considered bad because it is a risk factor for heart disease. HDL is good because it carries cholesterol from body cells and tissues to the liver for excretion from the body, Akuley said.
That's why polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats found in nuts, avocados and peanut butter are good. They result in less LDL and more HDL production in the body.
For more information on trans fat, visit www.fda.gov.
(Jorge Gomez writes for the Fort Lee "Traveler.")