The Providence Journal Newspaper published a report on Trans fat on May 27, 2010. The title – “Report: Trans fat limits lead to healthier foods.” The article was actually a report on an investigation of a group of foods that had their Trans fats removed by the manufacturer. The results were published in the Correspondence section of the New England Journal of Medicine. According to the newspaper article nearly all of the foods analyzed were free or mostly free of Trans fat and the saturated fat content of many of the foods was lower, unchanged or only slightly higher than before.
This article piqued my curiosity and some questions came to mind. I know that the food manufacturers are searching for ways to lessen or remove the Trans fats but just how are they doing this? What are they substituting for the Trans fats and is it any safer? And how did the researchers measure the Trans fats in the 83 foods they choose to investigate? So I had to investigate further into this. I went to the primary source – the New England Journal of Medicine.
The original article from which the newspaper article was take is titled Food Reformulations to Reduce Trans Fatty Acids. It is online as a full text article http://content.nejm.org/cgi/reprint/362/21/2037.pdf.
Summary of original article
- 83 reformulated products (58 supermarket foods and 25 restaurant foods) were analyzed.
- Assessment was based on information from consumer magazines, health newsletters, a nonprofit organization database, and the USDA food composition databases.
- Results indicated that the average content of saturated fat in supermarket foods increased and decreased slightly after being reformulated to decrease the Trans fat.
What is not addressed
- What are the Trans fats being replaced with?
- Some of the products show a decrease in saturated fat after reformulation. What is replacing these saturated fats?
- If the level of Trans fats was not actually measured in the laboratory and partially hydrogenated oils are used in the reformulation can we assume 0.4 g of Trans fat per serving?
What are the possible substitutes for Trans fat?
- Formulating new breeds of oil. High-oleic canola can withstand repeated heating in a deep-fat fryer without compromising taste. But it is in short supply and expensive. Another example – taking domestic liquid oils, such as soybean oil, and blending them with fully hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oils.
- Substituting Palm oil for partially hydrogenated fats.
- Unig Intersterified fats. Interesterification is the process of rearranging the fatty acids in a fat or oil. The interesterification process results in solid fat at room temperatures while lowering the melting point of the fat, making it useful for baking.
Are these substitutes safer and healthier for us. Interestingly, it appears that changing or re-arranging the molecules of fats or a combination of fats during the interesterification process may affect how the fats are metabolized in the human body. More to come on this.