Samantha Heller, a dietitian, nutritionist and exercise physiologist based in Fairfield, Conn., said reformulations that reduce trans fat in foods are good news for consumers.
However, consumers still need to read labels because many foods on the market are still undergoing reformulation, she said, and many others still contain trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils.
"Of concern is the continued and possibly increased use of tropical oils, such as palm, palm kernel and coconut oils, as a replacement for trans fat," Heller said. For example, it is difficult to find a margarine free of trans fat and tropical oil that one can use for baking and cooking, she said.
Most people know they should reduce their consumption of saturated fats like butter and cheese, but may be unaware that tropical oils in many processed foods are also saturated, Heller said.
Heller suggests consuming healthy fats, such as olive and walnut oils, and unprocessed foods that don't contain tropical oils.
Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., said removal of trans fat "from food is a well-justified public health priority."
This review is reassuring, he said. "In general, trans fat is coming out of food, and saturated fat is not going in. Even when it does, there is apt to be a net health benefit," he said. Some saturated fat is probably rather harmless, "but that's a subtlety that dietary guidelines are not yet addressing," Katz said.
Without intending to, this review raises an issue of importance to the field of public health nutrition, Katz added.
"We often focus on one nutrient at a time and risk improving one nutrient feature, while compromising others," Katz said. Un
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