Are Trans Fatty Acids Good For You?

A new study from the European Society of Cardiology suggests that trans fatty acids (TFAs) may not be as dangerous as previously thought.

Moreover, the research reveals that TFAs could even be beneficial if they are consumed in foods where they are naturally occurring, like dairy and meat products.

Artificial TFAs - which are found in many processed foods like baked goods, chips and cereals - are created when oil goes through a process of hydrogenation. Studies have linked trans fatty acids to problems like high cholesterol, stroke, heart problems and diabetes.

The study, which included 3,316 people from Germany, aimed to discover whether or not there is a difference between industrially produced TFAs and those that are naturally occuring.

A good fat?

Researchers were surprised to learn that an increase in industrially produced TFAs was not linked to increased mortality - a finding that contrasts research from the U.S.

"We found that higher concentrations of TFAs in the membranes of red blood cells were associated with higher LDL or 'bad' cholesterol, but also with lower BMI, lower fats in the blood (triglycerides) and less insulin resistance and, therefore, a lower risk of diabetes," said Dr. Marcus Kleber, study leader. "We were surprised to find that naturally occurring TFAs were associated with a lower rate of deaths from any cause, and this was driven mainly by a lower risk of sudden cardiac death."

Low levels of industrially produced TFAs did not pose a health risk, Dr. Kleber said, but that could be because German patients had much lower levels of TFAs than what are normally found in people from the U.S.

With further research, Kleber is confident there can be more clear information about how trans fatty acids affect health.

"Our data support a new approach to investigating TFAs and provide evidence that naturally occurring TFAs have to be differentiated from industrially produced TFAs."

Source: European Society of Cardiology
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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