Ruminant and industrially produced trans fatty acids: health aspects
Fatty acids of trans configuration in our food come from two different sources - industrially produced
partially hydrogenated fat (IP-TFA) used in frying oils, margarines, spreads, and in bakery products, and
ruminant fat in dairy and meat products (RP-TFA). The first source may contain up to 60% of the fatty acids
in trans form compared to the content in ruminant fat which generally does not exceed 6%. In Western
Europe, including Scandinavia, the average daily intake of IP-TFA has decreased during the recent decade
due to societal pressure and a legislative ban, whereas the intake of RP-TFA has remained stable.
In spite of this decrease we have found that in many countries consumption > 20 g of IP-TFA in a one-meal
menu consisting of some popular foods is possible, even though the average intake of IP-TFA in these
countries is low. Subgroups of the populations may therefore, on average, consume 5 g IP-TFA per day.
This level of consumption is generally not possible for RP-TFA. A daily intake of > 5 g TFA (primarily IPTFA)
is associated with a 29% increased risk of coronary heart disease. Such an association is not found for
RP-TFA up to a daily intake of 4 g.
The high amount of IP-TFA in popular foods, the evidence of a more harmful effect on health by IP-TFA
than by RP-TFA, and the feasibility of eliminating IP-TFA from foods without side effects for the population,
suggest that a selective elimination of IP-TFA from our food is a ‘low hanging fruit’ in the quest for a more
healthy diet for subgroups of the population.
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