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Trans Fats May Raise Risk of Gallstones

Study of 46,000 men shows 'modest' increase in risk of gallstone disease

Gallstone Study

The men in Tsai's study were all health professionals enrolled in a long-term health study. They completed questionnaires about their medical histories and the foods they ate in 1986 and every two years after that.

Data came from men who hadn't had a gallstone removed or gallstone disease before. When Tsai's team randomly checked the men's reports of gallstone removal or gallstone disease diagnosis, they found almost complete accuracy.

The modest increase in gallstone risk with high consumption of trans fats wasn't due to other factors, say the researchers.

They adjusted for age, body mass index (BMI), recent weight change, smoking, history of type 2 diabetes, alcohol and caffeine intake, dietary fiber, physical activity, other kinds of fats, and certain drugs.

Targeting Trans Fats

Most American adults eat 5.8 grams of trans fats per day, or 2.6% of their total daily calories. On average, they consume four to five times as much saturated fat, says the CFSAN.

"Saturated fat and trans fat raise LDL ('bad') cholesterol. Therefore, it is advisable to choose foods low in both saturated and trans fats as part of a healthful diet," says the CFSAN.

Keep in mind that all fats aren't bad and that the body needs a certain amount of fat to work properly.

Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are beneficial when consumed in moderation, says the CFSAN. Look for healthier fats in nuts, fish, and avocados, but don't overdo it -- calories still count.

Trans fats needn't be totally eliminated from the diet, says the CFSAN. That would require "extraordinary diet changes (e.g., elimination of foods such as dairy products and meats that contain trans fatty acids)," which could lead to shortfalls of some nutrients and create other health risks.

Many food labels do not list the amount of trans fat. Food manufacturers will be required to list them on nutrition labels by Jan. 1, 2006.

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