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Back to Fat

Trans Fats in the Canadian Diet

Industrial trans fats are fats formed when liquid oils are made into semi-solid or solid fats, such as shortening and hard margarine, during a process called hydrogenation.

Most of the trans fat in a typical Canadian diet come from hard margarines, and commercially fried foods and products made from hydrogenated oils and fats, such as French fries, donuts, cakes, pastries, muffins and croissants.1,2

Trans fat are also found naturally in some animal-based foods, such as dairy products and meat. However, the contribution from dairy products to the total trans fat content of the average Canadian diet is relatively minor.3 In fact, the trans fats in processed foods provide 4 times more trans fats in the average daily Canadian diet than dairy and meat products containing naturally occurring trans fats.4 Intake of ruminant trans fat appears to remain relatively stable over time, while intake of industrial trans fat does not.4

In addition, unlike industrial trans fat, natural trans fat does not appear to have a detrimental effect on health.

According to research done in the mid-1990’s, Canadian diets had one of the highest levels of trans fats in the world, with the average daily intake estimated at 8.4 g, or 3.7 % of total energy. Canadian men aged 18 to 34 consumed up to 39 g per day.5

Following Health Canada’s call on the food industry to reduce trans fat in food products and meet the recommendations of the Trans Fat Task Force established in 2006, many beneficial changes has been observed in the food supply.6 Yet, despite the recommendations to limit trans fat to < 2% of total fat in oils and < 5% in all other foods, the amount of trans fat in commercial products remains highly variable (see Tables below).

Since 2006, the estimated average daily intake has also declined considerably, down to approximately 3.4 g, or 1.4 % of total energy.7 However, although there have been improvements in the Canadian diet, the consumption of trans fat is still above the recommendations of the World Health Organization, as well as the American Heart Association, who both set the limit of trans fat intake at < 1% of energy.8,9

% Trans fat of various commercial food items6*
Food % Trans fat
of total fat
% Number of products
meeting trans fat limit
Frozen packaged baked desserts 0.0-22.2 73
Coffee whiteners and creamers 0.0-66.7 47
Snack puddings 0.0-33.3 78
Frozen appetizers 0.0-49.9 85
Frozen dinners and entrées 0.0-12.5 69

* The amount of trans fat varies according to product brands.

Amount of total fat and trans fat in various commercial food items10*
Food Serving Size Total Fat (g/serving) Trans Fat (g/serving)
Donut, sugared or glazed 1 donut (63 g) 14.43 0.084
Pie, chocolate cream 1/6 pie (113 g) 21.92 6.190
Muffin, chocolate chip 1 medium (113 g) 14.01 0.656
French fries 85 g 14.49 3.739
Shortening 1 tsp (4.3 g) 4.3 0.529
Margarine, hydrogenated 1 tsp (4.8g) 3.78 1.523
Butter5 1 tsp (5 g) 4.06 0.232
Margarine, non-hydrogenated 1 tsp (4.8 g) 3.86 0.030
2% milk5 250 ml (1 cup) 5.10 0.125
Ground beef, lean, raw 90 g 12.31 0.416

References

  1. Health Canada. Fats: The good the bad and the ugly. 2012.
  2. Heart and Stroke Foundation. Eliminating trans fat. 2010.
  3. Health Canada. TRANSforming the food supply: report of the Trans Fat Task Force. 2006.
  4. Food and Drug Administration (USA). Federal Register, Proposed Rules 2003;68:41507-41510.
  5. Ratnayake WMN et al. Trans fatty acids in Canadian margarines: recent trends. JAOCS 1998;75:1587-1594.
  6. Health Canada. Trans Fat Monitoring Program: fourth set of monitoring program. 2009
  7. Ratnayake WMN et al. Trans fatty acids: current contents in Canadian foods and estimated intake levels for the Canadian population. J AOAC Int 2009;92(5): 1258-1276.
  8. Nishida C et al. The joint WHO/FAO expert consultation on diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: process, product and policy implications. Public Health Nutr 2004;7:245-250.
  9. American Heart Association. Fats and oils: trans fats. 2012.
  10. Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File. 2012

Keywords: trans fat


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