natural transfat

Natural trans fats get okay, again

Additional insights into the health implications of trans fats were recently released by a global team of scientists who studied the differences between naturally occurring and industrial trans fats.

Their work builds on the growing knowledge of ruminant trans fats from the meat and milk of beef and dairy cattle, goats and sheep and, according to the scientists, strengthen the evidence that ruminant trans fats, unlike industrial trans fats, are not harmful and could even have health-enhancing potential.

The findings were presented to the 10th Congress of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids & Lipids (ISSFAL) in Vancouver, BC, last month.

“We are learning that there is an important public health message to convey about natural ruminant trans fats and how these are different from industrial trans fats that are targeted as harmful to health,” emphasized Dr Spencer Proctor, director of the Cardiovascular & Metabolic Diseases Laboratory at the University of Alberta in Canada.

The recent research suggests that consuming ruminant trans fats as part of a balanced diet is not a health concern, he said, and on the contrary, there is mounting evidence that these are “good fats” that could have a fundamental impact on improving public health. “They should not be a target in a bid to rid the diet of trans fats,” he said.

ISSFAL is an international scientific society that was established in 1991, and its members, who are from more than 40 countries, include doctors and other health professionals, scientists, administrators, educators, communicators and other specialists. Among a number of key roles, ISSFAL seeks to interpret new facts about dietary fats, lipids and oils into sound nutritional advice for the public.

Proctor chaired a symposium at the ISSFAL congress on the health implications of natural ruminant trans fats.

Also speaking at the symposium was Dr Jean-Michel Chardigny of the National Institute for Agricultural Research in France and Dr Marianne Uhre Jakobsen, an associate professor in public health at Aarhus University in Denmark.

They said the current research is based on “a strong foundation” of animal and human studies.

Chardigny said the knowledge of natural ruminant trans fats is limited, from recently conducted research and more will be learned about their health implications, “but clearly we know they are different from industrial trans fats and shouldn’t be painted with the same brush.”

He said his statement is based on his analysis of 13 human intervention studies that examined the impact of natural trans fats on cardiovascular health risk. Although there is a large body of research confirming the detrimental effects of industrial trans fats, research into natural trans fats has not shown such outcomes, he said.

“There is no association between natural trans fats and cholesterol-dependent cardiovascular risk,” he emphasized.

Jakobsen supported that conclusion, saying current research indicates that consumption of natural trans fats “is not associated with coronary heart disease within the range of intake in the general population.”

The scientists urged that there be clear differentiation between natural and industrial trans fats in health recommendations and on food labels.