Millions of Europeans still at risk from high trans fatty acid content in popular foods

September 17, 2012

The heart health of millions of Europeans is still at risk because of the persistently high trans fatty acid content of certain fast and convenience foods, indicates research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

While the overall TFA fat content of foods has fallen, few European countries have imposed any legal limits, meaning that it is perfectly possible to buy certain packaged and restaurant foods which still contain very high levels, say the authors.

(TFA) are primarily produced by the industrial of , a process that solidifies them and helps to prolong the shelf life of the in which they are used.

But previous research, which analysed data from four large studies, indicates that a daily intake of TFA of 5 g was associated with a 23% increased risk of .

The authors analysed the TFA content of popular foods in 16 member countries of the European Union (EU) in 2005 and again in several countries in 2009.

Only those foods which listed "partially hydrogenated vegetable fat" high on the contents list and contained more than 15g of fat per 100g were included.

In all, 70 servings of French fries and chicken nuggets, 90 packs of microwavable popcorn, and 442 samples of cakes, biscuits, and wafers were included in the analysis.

In 2005, a large serving of French fries and nuggets, 100g of microwavable popcorn, and 100g of cake or biscuits or wafers provided more than 30g/100g of TFA in five in Eastern Europe and between 20g and 30g in eight Western European countries.

In 2009 the analysis revealed that the TFA content in and nuggets had fallen substantially in all the European countries studied. But while the TFA content of popcorn, cakes and biscuits had fallen in Western European countries, this was not the case in Eastern Europe where it remained high.

The same portions still provided high TFA content of between 10g and 20g in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. But the equivalent menu in Germany, France and the UK provided less than 2g.

Clearer food labelling is one way of curbing trans fatty acid intake, but most countries still rely on food manufacturers to voluntarily reduce the TFA content of their products, the authors point out.

Only a few countries—Denmark, Austria, Switzerland and Iceland—have gone down the legislative route and forced industry to limit the amount of TFA used in foods to 2% of the total fat.

But foods containing trans fats, which can comprise up to 60% of the total fat content, can still legally be sold as shop bought packaged goods, or unpackaged in restaurants and fast outlets elsewhere in Europe, the authors emphasise.

"It means that in 2012 only a minority—approximately 14 million of the 500 million people in the EU—are protected by legislation against foods [containing] high amounts of [TFA]," they warn.

Explore further: Time to reboot thinking on trans fats -- natural trans fats from dairy and beef are good

More information: A trans European Union difference in the decline in trans fatty acids in popular foods: a market basket investigation doi 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000859

Related Stories

Time to reboot thinking on trans fats -- natural trans fats from dairy and beef are good

September 7, 2011
Not all trans fats are created equal and it's time for a change in nutrition labels in North America to reflect this, particularly when it comes to dairy and beef products.

Recommended for you

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Energy dense foods may increase cancer risk regardless of obesity status

August 17, 2017
Diet is believed to play a role in cancer risk. Current research shows that an estimated 30% of cancers could be prevented through nutritional modifications. While there is a proven link between obesity and certain types ...

Technology is changing Generation smartphone, and not always for the better

August 16, 2017
It's easy to imagine some graybeard long ago weighing in on how this new generation, with all its fancy wheels, missed out on the benefits of dragging stuff from place to place.

The environmental injustice of beauty

August 16, 2017
Women of color have higher levels of beauty-product-related chemicals in their bodies compared to white women, according to a commentary published today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors say ...

Heavily used pesticide linked to breathing problems in farmworkers' children

August 15, 2017
Elemental sulfur, the most heavily used pesticide in California, may harm the respiratory health of children living near farms that use the pesticide, according to new research led by UC Berkeley.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.