Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Stealth Fat Lurks in Favorite Foods

Many 'Healthy Foods' Full of Unlabeled Trans Fats

continued...

"Trans fat increases 'bad' LDL cholesterol -- in some studies more than saturated fat," Lipman says. "It also has a tendency to reduce 'good' HDL cholesterol, which saturated fat doesn't do. They work together as a pretty formidable instigator of clogged arteries and heart disease."

That's not all. Trans fat also increases blood levels of two other bad actors. One is the kind of fat called triglycerides. The other is a particle called lipoprotein(a), which promotes clogged arteries.

Since 1999, the FDA has tried to get manufacturers to label foods for trans fats. The food industry strenuously objected. But a recent report from the prestigious Institute of Medicine now points to trans fats as a health hazard. The result: The FDA will act in March, an FDA spokesperson tells WebMD. Once it does, food manufacturers will have one year to comply.

"Trans fats may be hidden, but they are no worse than other fats," Gene Grabowski, spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America Inc., tells WebMD. "Singling out any kind of fat as being worse than any other is not supported by science."

"Any amount of trans fat is bad," Lipman says. "Nobody knows how much trans fat is too much."

Public awareness of trans fats already is making a difference. Frito-Lay tells Consumer Reports that it plans to eliminate trans fat from Cheetos, Doritos, and Tostitos. And McDonald's says it will cut out nearly half the trans fat in its french fries -- although fast-food fries will never be healthy food.

Here's Consumer Reports' advice on how to look out for trans fat:

  • Read the list of ingredients. If you see "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening" near the top, you can bet on a lot of trans fat. If this is near the bottom of the list, however, the amount of trans fat may be small.
  • Suspect trans fat in margarines and shortenings; deep-fried fast and snack foods; and commercial baked goods such as pies, cookies, and crackers.
  • Don't be fooled by serving size. A small amount of trans fat in a tiny serving becomes a lot of trans fat in a normal serving. For example, most popcorn "serving sizes" are only a cupful. That's far less than the big bowls most people gobble.
  • Do label math. A few products list saturated, monosaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. If they don't add up to the total fats, the missing number is probably trans fat.
  • Products low in total fat likely are low in trans fat.
  • Beware of products that claim to have "low saturated fat" or "extra lean." They may still have lots of trans fat.
  • Labels that say "saturated fat free" have less than 0.5 grams of trans fat and less than 0.5 grams of saturated fat per serving.
  • Look for soft or liquid margarines instead of hard margarines.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

Get the latest Cholesterol Management newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

cholesterol lab test report
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
Compressed heart
Article
chocolate glazed donut and avocado
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
Slideshow
Cholesterol Fact or Fiction
Quiz
 
Food & Fitness Planner
TOOL
Attractive salad
ARTICLE
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
worst sandwich slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Fat Foods Fit Foods
SLIDESHOW
Bad Cholesterol
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections