Trans Fats, Food Labels & Heart Disease Prevention

February 12, 2015 BY: LISA


Have you been wondering about Trans fats on food labels?


I’ve done two media interviews today, both on heart disease related factors around diet so I thought I’d share the information with you too!


Recently the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has stated that it was not necessary to introduce mandatory reporting of Trans fatty acids (TFAs) on the nutrition label of foods. Food manufacturers can add this information voluntarily if they choose but are only mandated to add the quantity of trans fats on a nutrition label if the food product makes any nutrition content claim about cholesterol or saturated, trans, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, omega-3, omega-6 or omega-9 fatty acids.

oil labels


This may seem alarming however the evidence is that we really don’t have a lot of Trans fats in our foods and the bigger concern adding to our heart disease risk is our intake of saturated fats.


The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that no more than 1 per cent of our daily energy intake (kilojoules) should come from TFAs. Monitoring of TFAs in the Australian food supply has found that Australians obtain on average 0.5 per cent of their daily energy intake from Trans fats.


One of the comments from an ABC reporter was that people from lower socioeconomic areas would have a higher intake of Trans fats in their diet and need to know how much was in their food. This is certainly likely to be true however if the amount of trans fats was stated on the label it would only be a very small number in comparison to the other figures on the nutrition panel and likely to be overlooked as “nothing to worry about.”
Click here to read what other countries are doing re Trans fat regulations and to read FZANZ information about Trans fats.


While we are currently consuming levels of TFAs well below the WHO recommendation, we are still getting around 14 to 16 per cent of our daily energy from Trans fats and saturated fats combined. It is recommended that these fats contribute no more than 8 to 10 per cent of our daily energy.


The real problem is our high intake of saturated fats.


Here is some background information:

What are Trans fatty acids or Trans fats?

Trans fatty acids (TFAs), occur both naturally in foods and can be formed or added to foods during manufacture. Naturally occurring TFAs are found in small amounts in some animal products including butter, cheese and meat (beef and lamb).
Manufactured fatty acids (also known as artificial TFAs) are formed when liquid vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated or ‘hardened’ during processing to create spreads such as margarine, cooking fats for deep-frying and shortening for baking. Some Tran’s fats are also formed during high temperature cooking.

Processed foods can contain larger amounts of Trans fats due to manufacturing processes or from superheating oils and fats during food production. The following foods may contain higher levels of Trans fats:
• Deep fried foods
• Commercial cakes and biscuits
• Pies and pastries


What effect do Trans fats have on our body?
There is strong evidence that Trans fats increase our bad cholesterol and may also decrease our good cholesterol. This is clearly the opposite of what we want and by decreasing those foods high in saturated and trans fats and replacing them with good fats – those found in plants –seeds, nuts, olives and fish oils we can go a long way to improving our heart health and reducing disease risk.

What are saturated fats?
The term saturated has to do with the chemical structure of the fat, the opposite being unsaturated fats (mono- and poly- )What we know is that saturated fats can also increase our bad LDL cholesterol and possibly decrease our good HDL cholesterol just like trans fats. However as our diet is so much higher in saturated fats than it is in trans fats it is worthwhile refreshing your knowledge on where saturated fat is found in the diet.
Sources of saturated fat include:
• Processed meat such as sausages, burgers and salami
• Pastry
• Fatty or fried take-away foods
• Packaged cakes and biscuits
• Butter
• Hard and full fat soft cheeses
• Full fat dairy products
• Cream
• Crème fraiche (very similar to sour cream)
• Chicken skin
• Fat on meats


The Message overall:

It’s unhelpful to focus all your energy on one food type and trying to avoid or indeed include “it” in your diet (eg. superfoods). The best approach to healthy eating and decreasing your risk of heart disease and other nasties is to look at your overall diet and lifestyle.
I like these tips from the National Heart Foundation:
You can enjoy a healthy balanced diet simply by following these five tips:
1. Eat a variety of foods from the five food groups
2. Include vegetables, whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds every day
3. Choose healthier fats and oils
4. Limit sugary, fatty and salty take-away meals and snacks
5. Drink mainly water.
Plus- aim to set goals to do regular exercise, avoid binge drinking alcohol (water is fine!) and try to quit smoking.

Nuts and seeds

What can you do?
• Choose vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts and seeds everyday.
• Including fish two to three times a week instead of meat or chicken is a simple way to reduce saturated fat in the diet while getting the added benefits of omega-3.
• Limit deep fried foods and fatty take-away foods and fatty snacks, such as crisps, cakes, pastries, biscuits and chocolate.
• Use reduced fat milk, cheese and yoghurt.
• Select lean meat, poultry and game. Try to trim all visible fat from the meat before cooking. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
• Use spreads and margarines made from canola, sunflower or olive oil and dairy blends with the Heart Foundation Tick instead of butter. Spread thinly so you can still see the bread.
• Cook with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils, such as canola, sunflower, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut oils. Measure out your oil with a teaspoon or use a spray oil. The best advice is to mix up the oils you use. Only olive oil has a sound body of scientific evidence behind it. Coconut oil may be seen as the ”it” oil of the moment however it is still considered to be high in saturated fats and therefore should be used in moderation.
• Grill, bake, poach, steam or stir fry rather than shallow or deep frying and roasting in oil so that you don’t need to use a lot of fat.



Good Luck!
Lisa APD


All enquiries, Lisa 0413 956 107 Appointments 1300 725 806
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