Trans Fats Increase LDL Cholesterol Levels

Posted by: Kevin Flatt

Research conducted by scientists at the Beltsville (Maryland) Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC) contributed to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans including recommendations that people in the United States limit their intake of fats and oils that are high in trans fatty acids.

Joseph Judd (now retired), and nutritionist Beverly A. Clevidence, and colleagues fed 58 male and female volunteers, aged 26 to 64, four controlled diets, characterized as moderately high trans fat, high trans fat, high saturated fat, and high “heart healthy” oleic acid.

LDL cholesterol levels were measured each time the volunteers completed one of the diets for a 6-week period. The study showed that after they consumed any of the trans-fat or saturated-fat diets, as opposed to the oleic-acid diet, their LDL cholesterol levels were significantly increased.

Trans fats cause changes in metabolism that increase the amount of circulating LDL cholesterol, which in turn can get deposited in blood vessel walls.

The scientists also reported that it’s important not to replace dietary trans fats with saturated fats. In fact, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming less than 10 percent of daily calories from saturated fatty acids. That’s 22 grams or less for a 2,000-calorie diet.

Saturated fats and trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature. The thick, yellow grease that forms in a cool pan after cooking meat is saturated fat. Both types of fats can collect in the body and clog arteries, leading to heart disease.

A 2007 Agricultural Research Service data analysis shows that U.S. consumers aren’t winning the battle on staving off fats.

The analysis, which was based on nationally representative dietary-intake survey data from What We Eat in America/NHANES 2003-2004, was led by nutritionist Alanna J. Moshfegh who heads the Food Surveys Research Group at BHNRC.

The researchers studied the levels and sources of saturated and unsaturated fats in the American diet and found that about 64 percent of adults in the United States exceed the dietary recommendation for consuming saturated fat.

New labelling laws require foods to be labelled for their trans fat as well as their saturated fat content, therefore people can keep an eye on their fat intake by reading food labels.

For example, a croissant has about the same number of calories as a bagel. But a croissant, which is a buttery puff pastry, has 32 times as much saturated fat (6.6 grams compared to an oat-bran bagel’s 0.2 grams).

Reference:
Rosalie Marion Bliss, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff, USDA, ARS (28/2/2008).

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