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Facts about trans fats

Trans fatty acids; Partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs); Cholesterol - trans fats; Hyperlipidemia - trans fats; Atherosclerosis - trans fat; Hardening of the arteries - trans fat; Hypercholesterolemia - trans fat; Coronary artery disease - trans fat; Heart disease - trans fat; Peripheral artery disease - trans fat; PAD - trans fat; Stroke - trans fat; CAD - trans fat; Heart healthy diet - trans fat

Trans fat is a type of dietary fat. Of all the fats, trans fat is the worst for your health. Too much trans fat in your diet increases your risk for heart disease and other health problems.

Trans fats are made when food makers turn liquid oils into solid fats, like shortening or margarine. Trans fats can be found in many fried, "fast" packaged, or processed foods, including:

Animal foods, such as red meats and dairy, have small amounts of trans fats. But most trans fats come from processed foods.

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Trans-fatty acids

How Trans Fats Affect Your Health

Your body does not need or benefit from trans fats. Eating these fats increase your risk for health problems.

Cardiovascular disease risk:

Weight gain and diabetes risk:

How Much you can eat

Your body does not need trans fat. So you should eat as little as possible.

Here are recommendations from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association:

Reading Nutrition Labels

All packaged foods have a nutrition label that includes fat content. Food makers are required to label trans fats on nutrition and some supplement labels. Reading food labels can help you keep track of how much trans fat you eat.

Trans fats are under review for their health effects. Experts are working to limit the amount of trans fats used in packaged foods and restaurants.

Making Healthy Food Choices

Trans fats are found in many processed and packaged foods. Note that these foods are often low in nutrients and have extra calories from sugar:

Not all packaged foods have trans fats. It depends on the ingredients that were used. That is why it is important to read labels.

While it is fine to treat yourself to sweets and other high-fat foods once in a while, it is best to avoid food with trans fats completely.

You can cut how much trans fat you eat by substituting healthier foods for less healthy options. Replace foods high in trans and saturated fats with foods that have polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Here is how to get started:

References

Hensrud DD, Heimburger DC. Nutrition's interface with health and disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 202.

Mozaffarian D. Nutrition and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 49.

US Department of Health and Human Services; Food and Drug Administration. Trans fat. www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/trans-fat. Updated May 18, 2018. Accessed July 2, 2020.

US Department of Health and Human Services; US Department of Agriculture. 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf. Updated December 2015. Accessed July 2, 2020.

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Review Date: 5/26/2020  

Reviewed By: Meagan Bridges, RD, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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