Removing industrial trans fat from foods

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c1826 (Published 15 April 2010)
Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1826

Get access to this article and all of bmj.com for the next 14 days

Sign up for a 14 day free trial today

Access to the full text of this article requires a subscription or payment. Please log in or subscribe below.

  1. Dariush Mozaffarian, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology,
  2. Meir J Stampfer, professor of medicine and epidemiology
  1. 1Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  1. dmozaffa{at}hsph.harvard.edu

    A simple policy that will save lives

    As part of a 12 step manifesto to better public health, the UK Faculty of Public Health and Royal Society for Public Health proposed that consumption of trans fatty acids (TFAs) should be virtually eliminated in the United Kingdom by next year.1 They noted that, “it has been proven that industrially-produced TFA can damage health,” “there is no known safe level of consumption,” and “banning TFA from foods is a relatively easy way to help protect the public.”1 Are these arguments sound?

    TFAs are created when vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated to convert large numbers (typically 30-60%) of naturally occurring cis unsaturated double bonds into trans unsaturated double bonds. A high TFA content provides physical and chemical properties that are attractive to food manufacturers, including the creation of relatively inexpensive (compared with animal derived fats) solid or semi-solid fat. The process also destroys labile omega-3 acids (α-linolenic acid), and this reduces the propensity for fats to become rancid, increases shelf life, and optimises deep frying applications. Use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils has increased since the 1950s because of these commercial advantages and since the 1960s because of public health recommendations to replace saturated fats (such as butter and lard) with alternatives.

    Because mammals and most edible plants synthesise only cis double bonds, TFAs are rare in the natural …

    Get access to this article and all of bmj.com for the next 14 days

    Sign up for a 14 day free trial today

    Access to the full text of this article requires a subscription or payment. Please log in or subscribe below.

    Article access

    Article access for 1 day

    Purchase this article for £20 $30 €32*

    The PDF version can be downloaded as your personal record

    * Prices do not include VAT

    THIS WEEK'S POLL