In this issue of HEALTHbeat:
  • New research confirms danger of trans fats
  • What’s the skinny on fat-free half-and-half?

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Harvard Health Publications -- Harvard Medical School HEALTHbeat
June 19, 2007

Dear HEALTHbeat subscriber,

Every time we turn around we hear this dietary advice: Avoid treacherous trans fats. The harmful effect of these fats on the heart and blood vessels is significant enough that places like New York City and Denmark are banning trans fats in restaurant foods, and food labels are now required to list the trans fat content. I do my level best to keep trans fats out of my family’s diet, and now it turns out there’s even more evidence for doing so. This issue of HEALTHbeat discusses the latest research on the health effect of trans fats. Also, Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health discusses whether or not fat-free “half-and-half” is good for you.

Wishing you good health,


Nancy Ferrari
Managing Editor
Harvard Health Publications
HEALTHbeat@hms.harvard.edu

In This Issue
1 New research confirms danger of trans fats
[READ]
2 Notable from Harvard Medical School:
* The Healthy Heart
* Healthy Eating
[READ]
3 What’s the skinny on fat-free half-and-half?
[READ]

From Harvard Medical School
The Healthy Heart: Preventing, detecting, and treating coronary artery disease
It doesn’t make sense: Heart disease is one of the most preventable of all diseases, and yet it’s America’s No. 1 killer and has been every year since 1921. But you can avoid becoming a heart disease statistic. The Healthy Heart: Preventing, detecting, and treating coronary artery disease provides everything you need to know about preventing and treating coronary artery disease.
[READ MORE]
 
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1\ New research confirms danger of trans fats

If you needed another reason to avoid trans fats, here it is. Researchers with the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study measured the amount of trans fat stored in red blood cells. Among the 32,000 middle-aged women participating in the study, 166 had heart attacks or died of heart disease during a six-year period. Their red blood cells had slightly higher loads of trans fat than did red blood cells of 327 women of the same ages and characteristics who remained free of heart disease.

Artificial trans fats are found in hard margarines, many commercially baked goods, and the fried foods in many restaurants, and research has consistently shown they aren’t good for the heart and blood vessels. Across the board, the more trans fat in red blood cells, the greater the chances of having a heart attack. Women with the highest trans fat load had triple the risk of women with the lowest. This study, published in the April 10, 2007, Circulation, strongly supports recommendations by the Institute of Medicine and the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans to cut back — or better yet, cut out — trans fats in the diet. Eliminating them from the food supply could avert as many as 264,000 heart attacks and heart-related deaths each year in the United States alone.

Trans Fats at Home and Abroad

A prime source of trans fat is partially hydrogenated oil, which many fast-food restaurants continue to use for deep frying. To see if this differed by country, three Danish doctors determined the trans fat content of French fries and chicken nuggets bought in 24 McDonald’s and KFC restaurants on four continents. As shown above, a large fries-and-nuggets combination delivered 10 grams of trans fat in New York City but less than a gram in Denmark, which limits the use of trans fats. A similar serving of fries and chicken nuggets in a KFC in Hungary delivered a whopping 25 grams of trans fat.

For more information on heart disease, order our Special Health Report, The Healthy Heart: Preventing, detecting, and treating coronary artery disease, at www.health.harvard.edu/HH.

 
FOR FURTHER READING
For more information on heart disease, order our Special Health Report, The Healthy Heart: Preventing, detecting, and treating coronary artery disease.
[READ MORE or BUY]
    [Back to top]

2\ Notable from Harvard Medical School
** The Healthy Heart: Preventing, detecting, and treating coronary artery disease
It doesn’t make sense: Heart disease is one of the most preventable of all diseases, and yet it’s America’s No. 1 killer and has been every year since 1921. But you can avoid becoming a heart disease statistic. The Healthy Heart: Preventing, detecting, and treating coronary artery disease provides everything you need to know about preventing and treating coronary artery disease.
 
[CLICK TO READ MORE or BUY]
** Healthy Eating: A guide to the new nutrition
Forget your old ideas about healthy eating. Research done since the 1990s shows beyond all doubt that you can lower your risk for the most serious diseases of our time by following a healthy diet. Healthy eating, based on this new science, can ward off 25% of all cancers and, combined with exercising regularly and not smoking, can prevent possibly 90% of cases of type 2 diabetes. Healthy Eating: A guide to the new nutrition supplies the information you’ll need to choose safe, nutritious foods.
 
[CLICK TO READ MORE or BUY]
[Back to top]

3\ What’s the skinny on fat-free half-and-half?

Q: Is fat-free half-and-half good for you?

A: Sure, in the same way that diet soda is good for you — because of what you are not having. But it’s not good for you in the way that fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are.

Fat-free half-and-half is made with skim milk, a touch of milk or cream, corn syrup and other sweeteners, carrageenan (a seaweed extract used as a thickener), and other additives. As the name implies, each 2-tablespoon serving contains no fat, but it does have about 20 calories. Regular half-and-half is a mixture of milk and cream. A serving delivers 3 grams of fat (2 grams of which are saturated fat, or about 10% of the recommended daily limit), a bit of cholesterol, and 40 calories.

If you use a lot of half-and-half or cream in your coffee or when making soups or desserts, a fat-free version is a simple way to cut back on saturated fat. But don’t fall into the trap that trips up so many people who switch to low-fat or no-fat products — feeling so virtuous for making this change that you “reward” yourself with a donut or other high-fat snack, or forget that no fat doesn’t mean no calories.

If half-and-half is only an occasional treat, though, there’s no harm in having the real stuff.

— Walter Willett, M.D.
Harvard School of Public Health
Harvard Heart Letter editorial board

 
FOR FURTHER READING
For more information on good nutrition, order our Special Health Report, Healthy Eating: A guide to the new nutrition.
[READ MORE or BUY]
    [Back to top]

Harvard Medical School publishes authoritative Special Health Reports on a wide range of topics. Each report delivers practical information on diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of major health concerns in clear, easy-to-understand language. For more information on a specific topic, click the appropriate link below:

Alzheimer’s, Arthritis, Bladder, Cholesterol, Depression, Diabetes, Digestion, Energy, Exercise, Eye Disease, Headache, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Memory, Menopause, Prostate, Sexuality, Sleep, Stroke, Vitamins

 
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Harvard Medical School offers special reports on over 50 health topics. Visit our Web site at http://www.health.harvard.edu to find reports of interest to you and your family.

Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
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