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February 2011

Nutrition Spotlight


When it Comes to Trans Fats, Food Labels Don’t Always Tell the Truth

Even if you diligently read food labels, you may be still be consuming more trans fats than is recommended, according to a new report in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

food label

Dr. Eric Brandt, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, examined the trans-fat labeling regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and concluded that the current policy allows for misleading labeling. It states that if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving, it can be branded as having zero grams of fat. This is because foods containing less than 5 grams of fat may identify the fat content in increments of 0.5, and round down to the lower increment. Therefore, a food containing 0.49 grams of trans fat or less can be labeled as having zero trans fat. (Foods with more than 5 grams of fat are required to use 1.0 gram increments.)

The current recommendation for trans fat consumption is 1.11 grams per day, which could easily be exceeded by consuming two or three servings of foods misleadingly labeled “trans-fat free” even when they may contain as much as 0.49 grams of trans fats. Trans fat consumption has been linked to increased risk of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. In fact, research suggests that increasing trans fat consumption from 2.0 grams to 4.67 grams per day will increase one’s risk of heart disease by 30 percent.

Brandt is calling on the FDA to change its policy allowing foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fats to be labeled as trans-fat free. This change, he argues, would allow consumers to make more informed choices about the foods they consume and their resultant health effects.


A Healthy Diet is Essential to Long Life, No Matter How Old You Are

Following a healthy diet can help you live longer, whether you are eight or 80 years old, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

healthy diet

Researchers at the University of Maryland examined the eating habits and quality of life of approximately 2,500 adults, ages 70 to 79, and followed up with them for about a decade. They grouped the participants according to the foods they predominately consumed:

  • healthy foods
  • high-fat dairy foods
  • meat, fried foods and alcohol
  • refined grains
  • breakfast cereals
  • sweets and desserts

They found that the two groups at highest risk for early death were the high-fat dairy and sweets and desserts groups, with a respective 40 percent and 37 percent greater risk of dying than those who followed a mostly healthy diet. The group that consumed mostly meat, fried foods and alcohol did not have an increased risk of death, but researchers observed that they did eat slightly more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains than the two groups at highest risk. These results held even when researchers took into account other factors, including age, gender, race, education, physical activity and total caloric intake.

So, while kids are told to eat their fruits and vegetables so they can grow big and strong, the same advice should be heeded by older adults who want to extend their healthy years.

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