Ask the Expert: What are trans fats and why are they bad for me?

Bilingual nutritional label with selective focus on the transfat/cholesterol

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Q: I heard in the news that trans fats are being banned in Canada. What are trans fats and why are they bad for me? -Kelli

A: Dear Kelli, I see you’ve already heard the great news that Health Canada is banning industrially produced trans fat!

Trans fats can be found naturally in some animal-based foods or can be industrially produced. Industrially produced trans fats are formed during food processing.

Studies have found that industrially produced trans fats can increase the risk of heart disease, which is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Trans fats are known to raise LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and lower HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels. High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup and plaque clogs blood vessels, reducing oxygen and blood flow.

Intake of trans fats should be limited as much as possible. Most trans fat comes from partially hydrogenated oils which are found in products such as vegetable oil shortening, ‘stick’ (hard) margarine, commercially prepared baked goods, potato and corn chips, crackers, microwave popcorn and deep-fried foods.

As part of Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, partially hydrogenated oils, which are the main source of industrially produced trans fats in food, will be banned as of September 15, 2018. The ban will apply to all foods sold in Canada, including imported products and foods prepared and served in restaurants and food service establishments.

If you’re looking to learn more about nutrition, Strengthening the Forces, the Canadian Armed Forces’ Health Promotion program, offers quality programs with evidence-based research and skill building. Contact your local health promotion office and take advantage of what they have to offer.

Nicole Houghtaling, RD
Acting Nutrition Wellness Educator

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