A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
Interested in GIS?
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Posted 10:05 PM by Tevita
Hidden Trans Fats Exposed
New Food Labels List Trans Fats
Once upon a time, only true diet detectives knew whether a particular food contained trans fat, a phantom fat added to thousands of foods that has the most damaging effects on the heart
and blood vessels. They were the people who knew that the code phrases partially
hydrogenated vegetable oil" and "vegetable shortening" meant that trans fat lurked in the food.
Now, thank goodness, anyone can tell. As of January 1, 2006, trans fat must be listed on food labels along with other bad fats (saturated fats) and good ones (unsaturated fats).(1)
The addition is a victory for Harvard School of Public Health researchers who helped sound the alarm about trans fat in the early 1990s(2, 3) and who advocated that it be explicitly listed on food labels. After much equivocation by the FDA and intense lobbying against adding trans fat
to food labels by parts of the food industry, the FDA finally approved the addition.
This small, one-line change is sparking a major makeover of the American food supply. The FDA once estimated that approximately 95% of prepared cookies, 100% of crackers, and 80% of frozen breakfast products contained trans fat.(1) Now that trans fat must be listed on food labels, some companies are scrambling to remove them from their products. Many others have
already succeeded in going trans free.
The shift follows the growing realization that trans fats are even worse for the heart and blood vessels than saturated fats.
Trans fats are a type of mostly man-made fat that the food industry
loves, but our hearts and blood vessels don't.
In the late 19th century, chemists discovered that they could turnliquid vegetable oil into a solid or semi-solid by adding hydrogen atoms to the fat backbone. They did this by bubbling hydrogen gas through vegetable oil in the presence of a nickel catalyst.(4) This was far more than a chemical curiosity. Partially hydrogenated oils don't spoil as easily as nonhydrogenated fats. They can also withstand repeated heating without breaking down.
These characteristics were attractive to food makers. Over time, partially hydrogenated oils became a mainstay in margarines, commercially baked goods, and snack foods. When saturated fat was fingered as a contributor to high cholesterol, companies such as McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts switched from beef tallow to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil for frying French fries and donuts.
At the time, switching from butter or lard-both full of saturated fatto a product made from healthy vegetable oil seemed to make sense. Intake of trans fat increased dramatically. Before the advent of partial hydrogenation, the only trans fat that humans consumed came from eating cows (or dairy products), lambs, and deer; in ruminants like these, bacteria living in the forestomach make small amounts of trans fat. But due to the growth of partial hydrogenation, by the early 1990s, trans fat intake in the United States averaged 4-7% of calories from fat.
In 1981, a group of Welsh researchers speculated that trans fat might be linked with heart disease.(5) A 1993 Harvard study strongly supported the hypothesis that intake of partially
hydrogenated vegetable oils contributed to the risk of having a heart attack.(3) In that study, the researchers estimated that replacing just 2% of energy from trans fat with healthy unsaturated fat would decrease the risk of coronary heart disease by about onethird.
An influential symposium on trans fat later in the 1990s drew public attention to the issue.
Today we know that eating trans fats increases levels of lowdensity lipoprotein (LDL, "bad" cholesterol), especially the small, dense LDL particles that are most damaging to arteries. It lowers levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) particles, which scour blood vessels for bad cholesterol and truck it to the liver for disposal. It increases the tendency of blood platelets to clump and form potentially artery-blocking clots. It also fires inflammation,(6) an overactivity of the immune system that has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
This four-pronged attack on blood vessels translates into heart disease and death. Researchers estimate that eliminating trans fats from the U.S. food supply could prevent between 6 and 19 percent of heart attacks and related deaths each year--a staggering number, given that there are 1.2 million heart attacks and related deaths in the U.S. annually.(7)
Some food makers fought the label change because they suspected that consumers, if given a fair choice, would avoid products containing trans fat. (Although it is too early to tell, they are
probably right.) Fearing lost sales, many food companies looked for ways to make their products without partially hydrogenated oils. Some margarines, such as Promise and Olivio, have been virtually trans fat-free for several years. Frito-Lay now uses trans-free oils for making Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, and other snacks. Tyson Foods has introduced frozen fried chicken products without trans fat. A few grocery store chains, such as Whole Foods, never carried products that contain trans fat. And a few restaurants, like Legal Seafood and Ruby Tuesday's, no longer use partially hydrogenated oils. Oreos are now trans-free, and sooner or later there may even be a trans-free McDonald's French fry, though the fast-food giant has dragged its feet in this race. Back in 2002, McDonald's announced--with some fanfare--that it was voluntarily changing to a cooking oil with less trans fat and that the change would be completed by February 2003.(8) That plan never materialized, and a large order of fries still delivers about eight grams of trans fat. Interestingly, McDonald's has managed to go trans-free in Denmark, where trans fats are banned.
Now that the once-ubiquitous but invisible trans fats are listed in bold print on food labels, it's easier to spot them in packaged foods. Keep in mind, though, that according to the FDA, a product claiming to have zero trans fat can actually contain up to a half gram. (Canada set a different standard of zero as under 0.2 grams.) So you may still want to scan the ingredient list for "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" and "vegetable shortening," and look for an alternative product without those words, especially if it's something you eat regularly.
Take the federal Institute of Medicine's advice and get as little added trans fat as possible. Look for products that don't contain any. This is easier now that more and more companies are
competing for the attention of trans-free shoppers. It's harder to avoid trans fat in restaurants, since they are not required to provide nutrition information about the food they serve. One strategy is to avoid deep-fried foods, since many restaurants continue to use partially ydrogenated oils in their fryers. You may be able to help change this behavior by asking your server, the chef, or manager if the establishment uses trans-free oils. One final note: Just because a food has been prepared without partially hydrogenated oil doesn't necessarily make it healthy, cautions Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It can be trans-free and still contain a lot of sugar, refined starch, or saturated fat, which isn't a good choice."
1. Food Labeling: Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling.
Government Publishing Office.
2. Ascherio A, Hennekens CH, Buring JE, Master C, Stampfer MJ,
Willett WC. Trans-fatty acids intake and risk of myocardial
infarction. Circulation 1994; 89:94-101.
3. Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Intake of trans fatty
acids and risk of coronary heart disease among women. Lancet
4. Katan MB, Zock PL, Mensink RP. Trans fatty acids and their
effects on lipoproteins in humans. Annual Review of Nutrition
5. Thomas LH, Jones PR, Winter JA, Smith H. Hydrogenated oils
and fats: the presence of chemically-modified fatty acids in human
adipose tissue. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1981;
6. Mozaffarian D, Pischon T, Hankinson SE, et al. Dietary intake
of trans fatty acids and systemic inflammation in women.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004; 79:606-12.
7. Mozaffarian D, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett
WC. Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med.
2006 Apr 13;354(15):1601-13.
8. Kaufman M. McDonald's To Give Fat A Break; Fast-Food
Chain to Use Healthier Oil for Cooking. Washington Post: Sept. 4,
9. Sizzling test results boost demand for new soybean oil. Iowa
10. Natreon canola oil. Dow AgroSciences. Accessed December
(Courtesy of : L. Simpson)
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