Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: More evidence against trans fats

Heart Beat

More evidence against trans fats

Artificial trans fats, found in hard margarines, many commercially baked goods, and the fried foods in many restaurants, aren't good for the heart and blood vessels. At least that's the word from large studies that used diet questionnaires to examine the effect of trans fats. Researchers with the ongoing Nurses' Health Study took a different approach "" they measured the amount of trans fat stored in red blood cells. This is a good stand-in for trans fat intake. 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.

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.

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