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Can You Name 3 Trans Fat Foods?

Survey Shows 73% Know Trans Fats Are Bad, but Just 21% Can Name 3 Trans Fat Foods
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 9, 2009 -- Yes, you know trans fat is bad for you. But it's a good bet that knowledge isn't doing you much good.

About four out of five Americans know trans fats are bad for health. But only one in five can name three foods high in trans fat, find University of Colorado researcher Robert H. Eckel, MD, and colleagues.

"The trans fat message is pretty well out there, but we need to wake up to the fact that the trans fats intake pattern for America and the Western world is still too high," Eckel tells WebMD. "And we are still eating too many saturated fats, too."

We're trying, but we still don't get it, says Michael L. Dansinger, director of obesity research for the Tufts University atherosclerosis research lab and nutrition advisor for The Biggest Loser television series.

"There is a lot of confusion about where the sources of fat are and the best way to identify unhealthy fats," Dansinger tells WebMD.

The good news is that the Eckel study, a nationally representative survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, shows we're getting the message about fats:

  • 92% of Americans have heard of trans fat.
  • 73% of Americans know trans fats increase the risk of heart disease.
  • 77% of Americans know saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease.

The bad news is that most Americans have a fat chance of taking advantage of their fat knowledge:

  • Only 21% of Americans can name three food sources of trans fat.
  • Nearly half of Americans can't name even one trans fat food source.
  • Only a third of Americans can name even one trans fat food without seeing a list.

 

Looking Out for Trans Fats, Blindsided by Saturated Fats

Fortunately, new laws insist that products made with trans fats (and/or partially hydrogenated oils) have to say so on their labels.

Unfortunately, that's as far as many people read, says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and nutritional consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"People are pressed for time. So they see 'Trans fats: zero' on the label and they say, 'Fine, I'll buy it,'" Bonci tells WebMD. "But a lot of those foods have replaced the trans fat with a saturated fat. Free does not equal healthy. It is this assumption that 'trans-fat free must be good' that does us in."

Yes, trans fats are particularly bad. They raise total cholesterol. They raise LDL "bad" cholesterol. And the double whammy is that they lower HDL"good" cholesterol.

But as Eckel points out, saturated fats aren't a whole heck of a lot better. They can do a world of harm to your heart if not eaten in moderation. And when it comes to saturated fat, we tend not to be moderate.

"The health message is more than trans fats. But this message is ignored: 12.4% of our total calories come from saturated fats. That's twice what we should be eating," Eckel says.

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