Health: M&S Ban Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil/Transfatty Acids

'Marks & Spencer' responded to growing concerns about the safety of trans fatty acids (TFAs) -- man-made fats used in everything from biscuits and spreads to chips and ready meals -- by banning foods that contain them. Most TFAs are made by heating vegetable oils to alter their chemical structure to improve their longevity and texture (TFAs are solid at room temperature and mimic that melt-in-the-mouth quality of animal fats such as butter). This process, known as hydrogenation, converts relatively healthy fats into dangerous ones. TFAs increase blood cholesterol levels, and shift the balance of good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol in favour of the latter. This encourages the deposition of fat in artery walls that leads to the narrowing responsible for stroke and heart disease. 'The Harvard School of Public Health' estimates that at least 30_000 US Americans die from premature heart disease as a direct result of eating TFAs -- a proportion which would equate to around 5_000 people a year here in the UK. We would all benefit from cutting the amount of fat in our diet, but the use of synthetic fats in everyday foods, including spreads marketed as healthier alternatives to butter, makes it difficult for us to make an informed choice. Products are often labelled as low in harmful 'saturated fats', but their TFA content will rarely be flagged up. Even if it is, it's often disguised under another name -- check for trans fats, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, vegetable shortening and margarine. The food industry has been trying to clean up its act -- both in TFA content and clearer labelling -- but there is still a lot of room for improvement. The stance taken by 'M&S' will increase the pressure on manufacturers, but major retailers such as 'Tesco' and 'Sainsbury's' need to follow suit if we are to remove man-made fats from our diet. I generally disregard food scares, but have always been wary of TFAs and won't feed them to my family if I can avoid them. We even stopped using spreads containing them and went back to butter. It's not particularly good for your arteries either but, assuming you use spreads sparingly, it makes little or no difference to your long-term health, so you might as well use one that is natural, tastes good and contains no synthetic TFAs. Special cholesterol-lowering spreads 'Benecol' and 'Flora pro activ' are important exceptions -- they need to be used fairly liberally to exert any beneficial effect, but their cholesterol-lowering ingredients more than compensate for the tiny amounts of TFA they contain. For more information, visit www.tfx.org.uk or www.bantransfats.com 'Hidden dangers of artificial trans fats', Mark Porter, The Scotsman, 2005-12-06, Tu


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flora used to print "NO Transfatty Acids" acorss their cartons!

12/11/2005 11:53:00 pm  

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