Harmful trans fatty acid contents low in spreads and vegetable fat ice creams


<p>There are considerable differences in hard and soft fat contents between brands. The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira studied the fatty acid compositions of spreads, baking margarines, vegetable fat ice creams and milk-based vegetable fat blends. None of the analysed foods contained more than two per cent of trans fats. Evira’s study provides updated information on trans fats contained in foods and their fatty acid compositions. The information may be applied both in nutrition research and the individual consumer’s shopping choices. <br /></p>

The trans fat content of the analysed samples containing vegetable fat was less than one per cent of the total fatty acid content, with the exception of one sample with a trans fat content of less than two  per cent. Spreads that were manufactured using milk fat contained more trans fat than spreads containing only vegetable fat.

Solid baking margarines contained more saturated or hard fat (35-42%) than liquid baking margarines (7-14%). Some vegetable fat ice creams and vegetable fat blends, on the other hand, contained more saturated fat (91-94%) than cream (68%).

The source of the vegetable fat used in a product affects its fatty acid composition: for example, coconut butter contains a lot of saturated fat. Nevertheless, the average proportion of saturated fat in vegetable fat blends was relatively low (28%).

Of the product groups analysed, the highest polyunsaturated or soft fatty acid content was in liquid baking margarines (mean 33%). On average, there was no difference between low fat (29-41% fat) and higher fat (60-80% fat) spreads in terms of fatty acid composition.

Industrially formed trans fats harmful
Trans fats are created in two ways: either as a result of an industrial process, like the trans fat in vegetable fats, or from the metabolism of ruminants, such as the trans fat contained in butter. The composition of trans fat produced by ruminants is different from industrially created trans fat. Trans fat is a chemically unsaturated or soft fat, but in terms of their industrial qualities they resemble hard fats.

A number of studies have found the health impacts of industrial trans fat to be more harmful than those of saturated fat. Industrial trans fats reduce ‘good’ or HDL cholesterol levels and raise those of ‘bad’ or LDL cholesterol, weakening their ratio. Moreover, they promote the oxidisation of the body’s LDL cholesterol, which is the early stage of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.

It has also been suggested that high hard fat intake is linked to cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. That is why the National Nutrition Council recommends that hard fats be replaced with mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Good sources include vegetable oils, fish, almonds and nuts.

The results are published in the scientific, peer-reviewed publication 
Ritvanen, T., Putkonen, T. , Peltonen, K.
A comparative study of the fatty acid composition of dairy products and margarines with reduced or substituted fat content. Food and Nutrition Sciences, Vol. 3, 2012, pp. 1189-1196.

Additional information:
Researcher Tiina Ritvanen, Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit
t. +358 (0)40 489 3415
Head of Research Unit, Professor Kimmo Peltonen, Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit,
t. +358 (0)40 500 2614

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