Trans Fats...The Deadly Fat

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How Do Your Choices of Fat Stack Up?

With the addition of trans fat to the Nutrition Facts panel, you can review your food choices and see how they stack up. The following labels illustrate total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol content per serving for selected food products.

Don't assume similar products are the same. Be sure to check the Nutrition Facts panel (NFP) when comparing products because even similar foods can vary in calories, ingredients, nutrients, and the size and number of servings in the package. When buying the same brand product, also check the NFP frequently because ingredients can change at any time and any change could affect the NFP information.


Look at the highlighted items on the sample labels below. Combine the grams (g) of saturated fat and trans fat and look for the lowest combined amount. Also, look for the lowest percent (%) Daily Value for cholesterol. Check all three nutrients to make the best choice for a healthful diet.
Note: The following label examples do not represent a single product or an entire product category. In general, the nutrient values were combined for several products and the average values were used for these label examples.

Compare Spreads!*
Keep an eye on Saturated Fat, Trans Fat and Cholesterol!
 Butter **  Margarine, stick †  Margarine, tub †
Sample label for Butter with the values below. Sample label for Margarine, stick with the values below. Sample label for Margarine, tub with the values below.

  Saturated Fat : 7g
Trans Fat    :  0g
Combined Amt.: 7g

  Saturated Fat : 2g
Trans Fat    : 3g
Combined Amt.: 5g
  Saturated Fat :  1g
Trans Fat    : 0.5g
Combined Amt.: 1.5g
Cholesterol: 10 % DV Cholesterol: 0 % DV Cholesterol: 0 % DV
*Nutrient values rounded based on FDA's nutrition labeling regulations. Calorie and cholesterol content estimated.
**Butter values from FDA Table of Trans Values, 1/30/95.
† Values derived from 2002 USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 15.
 


Compare Desserts!*
Keep an eye on Saturated Fat, Trans Fat and Cholesterol!
Granola Bar ± Sandwich Cookies ± Cake, Iced and Filled ±
Sample label for Granola Bar with the values below. Sample label for Sandwich Cookies with the values below. Sample label for Cake, Iced and Filled with the values below.

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  Saturated Fat : 1g
Trans Fat   :  0g
Combined Amt.: 1g

  Saturated Fat : 1g
Trans Fat    : 1.5g
Combined Amt.: 2.5g
  Saturated Fat :  3.5g
Trans Fat    : 4.5g
Combined Amt.:   8g
Cholesterol: 0 % DV Cholesterol: 0 % DV Cholesterol: 3 % DV
*Nutrient values rounded based on FDA's nutrition labeling regulations.
± Values for total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat were based on the means of analytical data for several food samples from Subramaniam, S., et al., "Trans, Saturated, and Unsaturated Fat in Foods in the United States Prior to Mandatory trans-Fat Labeling," Lipids 39, 11-18, 2004. Other information and values were derived from food labels in the marketplace.


Compare Snacks!*
Keep an eye on Saturated Fat, Trans Fat and Cholesterol!
Frozen Potatoes ±
(e.g., French Fries)
Potato Chips ± Mini-Sandwich Crackers ±
Sample label for Frozen Potatoes with the values below. Sample label for Potato Chips with the values below. Sample label for a Mini-Sandwich Crackers with the values below.
  Saturated Fat : 1g
Trans Fat   :  1.5g
Combined Amt.: 2.5g

  Saturated Fat : 2g
Trans Fat    : 0g
Combined Amt.: 2g
  Saturated Fat :  2g
Trans Fat    : 2g
Combined Amt.:   4g
Cholesterol: 0 % DV Cholesterol: 0 % DV Cholesterol: 1 % DV
*Nutrient values rounded based on FDA's nutrition labeling regulations.
± Values for total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat were based on the means of analytical data for several food samples from Subramaniam, S., et al., "Trans, Saturated, and Unsaturated Fat in Foods in the United States Prior to Mandatory trans-Fat Labeling," Lipids 39, 11-18, 2004. Other information and values were derived from food labels in the marketplace.


How Can I Use the Label to Make Heart-Healthy Food Choices?

The Nutrition Facts panel can help you choose foods lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. To lower your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, compare similar foods and choose the food with the lower combined saturated and trans fats and the lower amount of cholesterol.

Pop Quiz: Which should you choose?


Select a product on the left column for an answer!

Serving size = 1 Tablespoon* (g = grams; mg = milligrams)


 Product Calories Total Fat g Saturate Fat g Trans Fat g Combined Saturated and Trans Fats g Cholesterol mg
Margarine, 80% fat, stick † 100 11 2 3 5 0
Butter ** 100 11 7 0 7 30
Margarine, 60% fat, tub‡ 80 9 1.5 0 1.5 0
Margarine, 70% fat, stick † 90 10 2 2.5 4.5 0


*Nutrient values rounded based on FDA's nutrition labeling regulations. Calorie and cholesterol content estimated.

**Butter values from FDA Table of Trans Values, dated 1/30/95.

† Values derived from 2002 USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 15.

‡ Pre release values derived from 2003 USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16.

Answers:


Margarine, 80% fat, stick † Look for another option. This choice does not contain the lowest combined amount of Saturated and Trans Fat.


Butter ** Look for another option. This choice contains the highest combined amount of Saturated and Trans Fat, and the highest amount of Cholesterol.


Margarine, 60% fat, tub‡ Congratulations! This choice has the lowest combined amount of Saturated and Trans fat and 0 g of Cholesterol.


Margarine, 70% fat, stick † Look for another option. This choice does not contain the lowest combined amount of Saturated and Trans Fat.

Although the updated Nutrition Facts panel will now list the amount of trans fat in a product, it will not show a %Daily Value (% DV). While scientific reports have confirmed the relationship between trans fat and an increased risk of CHD, none has provided a reference value for trans fat or any other information that FDA believes is sufficient to establish a Daily Reference Value or a % DV.



Sample Nutrition Facts Label for Macaroni and Cheese

Saturated fat and cholesterol, however, do have a % DV. To choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol, use the Quick Guide to % DV. The general rule of thumb is: 5% DV or less is low and 20% DV or more is high.

You can also use the % DV to make dietary trade-offs with other foods throughout the day. You don't have to give up a favorite food to eat a healthy diet. When a food you like is high in saturated fat or cholesterol, balance it with foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol at other times of the day.

This graphic of the Nutrition Facts panel illustrates which nutrients experts recommend you limit and which they recommend you consume in adequate amounts.

Do Dietary Supplements Contain Trans Fat?

Would it surprise you to know that some dietary supplements contain trans fat from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil as well as saturated fat or cholesterol? It's true. As a result of FDA's new label requirement, if a dietary supplement contains a reportable amount of trans or saturated fat, which is 0.5 gram or more, dietary supplement manufacturers must list the amounts on the Supplement Facts panel. Some dietary supplements that may contain saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol include energy and nutrition bars.

Practical Tips for Consumers!

Here are some practical tips you can use every day to keep your consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol low while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.

  • Check the Nutrition Facts panel to compare foods because the serving sizes are generally consistent in similar types of foods. Choose foods lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. For saturated fat and cholesterol, use the Quick Guide to % DV: 5% DV or less is low and 20% DV or more is high. (Remember, there is no % DV for trans fat.)


  • Choose Alternative Fats. Replace saturated and trans fats in your diet with mono- and polyunsaturated fats. These fats do not raise LDL (or "bad") cholesterol levels and have health benefits when eaten in moderation.


  • Sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils.


  • Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and foods like nuts and fish.


  • Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are lower than the amounts in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter.

  • Consider Fish. Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as mackerel, sardines, and salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids that are being studied to determine if they offer protection against heart disease.


  • Choose Lean Meats, such as poultry (without skin, not fried), lean beef and pork (trim visible fat, not fried).


  • Ask Before You Order When Eating Out. A good tip to remember is to ask which fats are being used in the preparation of your food when eating or ordering out.


  • Watch Calories. Don't be fooled! Fats are high in calories. All sources of fat contain 9 calories per gram, making fat the most concentrated source of calories. By comparison, carbohydrates and protein have only 4 calories per gram.


  • Here are two actions consumers can take to keep their intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol "low":

    • Look at the Nutrition Facts panel when comparing products. Choose foods low in the combined amount of saturated fat and trans fat and low in cholesterol as part of a nutritionally adequate diet.

    • When possible, substitute alternative fats that are higher in mono- and polyunsaturated fats like olive oil, canola oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil and corn oil.

Source: CFSAN/Office of Nutritional Products, Lableling, and Dietary Supplements, January 16, 2004: Updated March 3, 2004; Updated Jan. 1, 2006 (www.cfsan.fda.gov).


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Reviewed on 7/10/2006

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