What Are the Risks of Trans Fats?

Medically Reviewed on 3/31/2022
What Are the Risks of Trans Fats
Unlike other fats, trans fats may raise low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol levels, while lowering high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol levels

Unlike other fats, trans fats may raise low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol levels, while lowering high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol levels. This increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, and some cancers.

What are trans fats?

Fat is a rich energy source that helps with fat-soluble vitamin absorption (vitamins A, D, E, and K). Dietary fats provide your body with essential fatty acids, which are vital for optimal growth and development when consumed in moderation. 

There are two main types of fats:

  • Saturated fats: Sources include most animal products
  • Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated): Sources include plants and some seafood

Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat formed when hydrogen is added to oils to transform them from a liquid to a semisolid state. Food manufacturers use hydrogenation to extend the shelf life and improve the texture of various foods.

What foods contain trans fats?

The main sources of trans fats in the common diet are fried foods and baked goods that contain hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans fats are found in a small amount in the milk and fat of sheep and cattle (such as whole milk and butter).

Margarine, shortening, chips, cookies, cakes, French fries, salad dressing, and dried/powdered non-dairy creamers are all examples of items that are often made with hydrogenated vegetable oils.

What is the difference between trans fats and saturated fats?

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Examples include animal fats such as butter and lard, as well as some vegetable oils such as coconut oil and palm oil.

Both saturated and trans fats raise bad cholesterol levels. However, trans fats also lower good cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease.

What is the recommended intake of trans fats?

Currently, the World Health Organization and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recommend restricting trans fats to very small amounts. 

In practice, this means that trans fats should comprise less than 1% of  your daily caloric intake. So if you typically consume 2,000 calories a day, you should consume no more than 2.2 grams of trans fats a day.

When grocery shopping or cooking, avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils and foods with higher trans fat content. Stay away from deep-fried foods and make sure your diet is well-balanced and nutritious.

Is butter healthier than margarine?

Although butter is not as high in trans fats as margarine, butter is still high in saturated fats and cholesterol, both of which are harmful to heart health. 

Most margarines are manufactured from vegetable oils, which have no cholesterol and are lower in saturated fats. Soft margarines are often lower in trans fat than their harder counterparts, and there are options for freshly made margarines that are very low in trans fats.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 3/31/2022
Image Source: iStock Images