The Truth About Trans-Fats

By: Courtney Lassiter
By: Courtney Lassiter

Heart disease is down in the United States, but doctors say not low enough.

From 1993 to 2003 Cardiovascular Disease death rates dropped 22 percent. The American Heart Association said more than 910, 000 Americans still die of heart disease each year, and more than 70 million Americans live every day with some form of heart disease. Eating fatty foods is one way to prevent that.

Restaurants have taken the blame for years for unhealthy menu choices, but now they're changing their frying oil to eliminate trans fats and adding "heart healthy" dishes for conscious weight watchers.

"Even if you are going to a 'heart healthy' restaurant that has switched oils, be mindful of saturated fats and trans-fats you are eating too," said Amy Meador of the Barren River District Health Department.

Some of your favorite restaurants are making the switch from oil with trans fats to a mixture of corn and soy bean oil without the artery clogging fat. KFC will join Wendy's, who already switched to a zero trans fat oil. In 2003 McDonalds announced it intended to switch as well, but has yet to follow through.

WBKO compared a cup of the trans-fat free oil and the other oil restaurants are using. Simply by looking at them, there's barely a difference. We asked several Wendy's and Kristie's Kitchen customers in Bowling Green and they said they couldn't taste a difference. But, Meador said your heart will notice the difference.

With a model heart and arteries that are the actual size of a human heart, Meador shows how thin an artery is and how fats can build up.

"They are not as large as what a lot of people think they are, so if you're eating a high fat diet and you're not getting much exercise it wouldn't take long to have a plaque build up and hardening of the arteries," Meador said.

Studies show that trans fat raises the level of LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) in the blood. Too much trans fat may also reduce the level of HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) in the blood. These two cholesterol changes in your blood may increase your chances of getting heart disease.

You can find out if foods have trans fat by reading the label or ingredient list. Look for the words "hydrogenated" and "partially hydrogenated" on the ingredient label to see if the food has trans fat in it.

  • Use liquid vegetable oils like canola, olive, soybean, corn oils or cooking spray instead of solid fats.
  • Choose tub, liquid margarine or vegetable oils on the ingredient list instead of butter, lard, fatback, solid shortening and stick margarine.
  • Buy light, low fat or fat free margarine
  • Eat less cookies, cakes, pastries, crackers, potato chips and snack chips
  • Substitute applesauce for part of the fat in brownies and quick breads.
  • The American Heart Association said prevention is key to a healthy heart, although two-thirds of Americans are obese or overweight.

    Leading causes of death (information courtesy of
    Heart disease kills more Americans each year than all cancers combined, according to federal figures, and it's been at the top spot for more than two decades.
    Rank Cause of death Number of deaths in 2004*

  • 1. Heart disease 654,092
  • 2. Cancer (all) 550,270
  • 3. Stroke 150,147
  • 4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases 123,884
  • 5. Accidents 108,694
  • 6. Diabetes 72,815
  • 7. Alzheimer's disease 65,829
  • 8. Influenza/Pneumonia 61,472
  • 9. Nephritis (kidney-related disease) 42,762
  • 10. Septicemia (infection in the blood) 33,464

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