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Food labels to include information on trans fats in US

Americans are aware of what too much cholesterol can do to people. High-fat diets cause many patients' problems. More and more Americans are looking at food labels // to know what they consume.

Now, new rules on food labeling will make it easier for consumers to avoid trans fats, which plug arteries, and have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, among other things.

Trans fats are a result of manufacturers adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to improve shelf life. If a product is labeled "partially hydrogenated," it means at least some trans fats are created in the product, the amount ranging from almost zero to a large portion of a food item's calories.

The partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that contain trans-fatty acids make baked goods and fried foods crispy or crunchy. They make doughnuts creamy. They extend shelf life, are solid at room temperature, and are cheaper than other types of fat. They affect how a product tastes, sometimes in hard-to-duplicate ways.

Trans fats can wreak havoc on humans, lowering good cholesterol, raising bad cholesterol and reducing the quality of everything from testosterone to breast milk.

They are worse than saturated fats that nutritionists have long warned about. Saturated fats raise the level of bad cholesterol, but they also provide some health benefit by raising the level of good cholesterol.

The labels have already had an impact. Rather than face an undesirable label, many large food manufacturers have announced they will reduce or eliminate trans fats.

Though trans fats are found in small quantities naturally in dairy products, most Americans get their trans fats through heavily processed foods such as vegetable shortening, margarine, and snack foods like deep-fried chips and packaged breads, cookies and crackers.

Dieticians recommend that it is best to keep trans fat consumption as close to zero as possible.

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