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Trans fatty acids: Effects on cardiometabolic health and implications for policy

  • R. Micha
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
    Search for articles by this author
  • D. Mozaffarian
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School (DM), Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue Building 2-319, Boston, MA 02115, USA. Tel.: +6174322887; fax: +6174322435.
    Affiliations
    Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

    Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

    Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
    Search for articles by this author
Published:August 25, 2009DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plefa.2008.09.008

      Abstract

      In both developed and developing countries, trans fatty acids (TFA) are largely consumed from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. This article focuses on TFA as a modifiable dietary risk factor for cardiovascular disease, reviewing the evidence for lipid and non-lipid effects; the relations of trans fat intake with clinical endpoints; and current policy and legislative issues. In both observational cohort studies and randomized clinical trials, TFA adversely affect lipid profiles (including raising LDL and triglyceride levels, and reducing HDL levels), systemic inflammation, and endothelial function. More limited but growing evidence suggests that TFA also exacerbate visceral adiposity and insulin resistance. These potent effects of TFA on a multitude of cardiovascular risk factors are consistent with the strong associations seen in prospective cohort studies between TFA consumption and risk of myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease (CHD) death. The documented harmful effects of TFA along with the feasibility of substituting partially hydrogenated vegetable oils with healthy alternatives indicate little reason for continued presence of industrially produced TFA in food preparation and manufacturing or in home cooking fats/oils. A comprehensive strategy to eliminate the use of industrial TFA in both developed and developing countries, including education, food labeling, and policy and legislative initiatives, would likely prevent tens of thousands of CHD events worldwide each year.

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