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Checking Out Trans Fat Alternatives

By Lori Corbin

- Starbucks did it, same with KFC. Just about every day some food manufacturer announces plans to reformulate products to make them trans fat free. But does trimming trans really make products healthy?

"The reason we don't want trans fat in the diet is because they have been shown to produce increase risk for heart disease by raising cholesterol," Susan Bowerman, of the Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA said.

So food manufacturers swap partially hydrogenated oil for other fats providing similar taste and shelf life.

"The good is that they're eliminating the trans fat, but then they're replacing it with palm oil, coconut oil and sometimes butter," Heidi Diller, a dietitian said.

Is that healthier? Bowerman says not always, as oils like palm, palm kernel, and coconut are saturated

"They are being replaced with fats that could potentially really not do us a whole lot of good," Bowerman said.

But here's good news, Frito-Lay uses trans fat free sunflower oil call NuSun in their chips and snacks.

Kellogg's is working with low trans oil from engineered soybeans, and Crisco offers a fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil that not only trans fat free, it doesn't raise saturated fat levels either.

Keep in mind something missing in trans fat marketing, trans fat free does not mean fat free and doesn't necessarily mean a product is healthy. For example a medium order of french fries, has 490 calories and 20 grams of fat, a blueberry scone has 19 grams of fat and a tablespoon of Crisco has about 110 calories, all coming from fat.

With a recommendation of consuming just two grams of trans fat or less a day, here's an important fact to keep in mind: "manufacturers can have up to a half a gram in the product and still say zero," Diller said.

If you eat twice the suggested serving size, you've got trans fat. As always, smart shoppers should scan labels and ingredient lists to get the real facts.

"Don't just look at the trans fat line and say there's no trans fat this is okay for me, because you could still be eating a food that is 50 to 60 percent fat calories ... if there's no trans fat, look at the saturated fat, look to see how much total fat there is," Bowerman said.

Lori Corbin

Eyewitness News Team

Lori Corbin,

 

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