Trans Fats More Harmful Than Saturated Fats

We have long heard that saturated and trans fats are both unhealthy and best avoided whenever possible, but a study in the July issue of Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association finds that trans fats cause more harm. The study reveals that trans fats increased the risk of cardiovascular disease more than saturated fats, as trans fats reduced participants’ blood pressure function by one-third and lowered “good” cholesterol by one-fifth compared to saturated fats.

Saturated fats come from animal products and some tropical plants such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils. Trans fats, which are common in margarine, packaged baked goods and restaurant fried foods, are created when hydrogen atoms are forced into liquid oils, such as corn or soybean oil, to make them solid at room temperature. This process is referred to as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils on nutrition labels.

Researchers randomly assigned 29 healthy men and women to either a diet high in trans fats (9.2 percent of calories from trans fats) or high in saturated fats (9.2 percent of calories from saturated fats). The two diets only differed in type of margarine: The trans fat came mostly from partially hydrogenated soybean oil, and the saturated fats came from palm kernel oil.

After four weeks on one diet, subjects were then switched to the other diet. Each subject had four measurements taken of artery dilation in the arm.

According to study findings, the ability of the blood vessels to dilate was 29 percent lower in people who ate the high trans fat diet, compared to people on the saturated fat diet. And “good” cholesterol levels were 21 percent lower in the trans fat group than in the saturated fat group. Reduced dilation of blood vessles is associated with most risk factors for heart disease, including high blood cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure.

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