Artificial trans fats in the form of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils have been shown to raise LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or ‘bad’) cholesterol and lower HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or ‘good’) cholesterol, thereby clogging arteries and increasing risk of heart disease. However, naturally occurring trans fats in meat and dairy have not been shown to have the same effect. Some research has even suggested that natural trans fats could have heart health benefits.
"We are at a point with the science where there is important information to deliver to the consumer on natural trans fats and how they are different from the 'bad' trans fats they have so often heard about," said Dr. Spencer Proctor, director of the Metabolic and Cardiovascular Diseases Laboratory at the University of Alberta in Canada, and a science advisor to the new website.
"The aim of the website is to help consumers, and nutrition advocates, recognize the difference between industrial and natural trans fats and the basics of what this means for their health and for making good food and dietary choices,” he said. “Over time, it will also include more in-depth information for people involved in interpreting the science and providing nutritional and health advice."
The website, www.naturaltransfats.ca, covers information about the differences between natural and artificial trans fats, the latest scientific information on natural trans fats, and an interactive virtual menu of foods that contain natural trans fats, including per serving information on calories, daily value and natural trans fats content.
Procter is one of a group of lipid scientists who are urging separate labeling of naturally occurring and industrial trans fats on food labels as well as in nutrition education.