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Healthy Potato Chips: A Trans Fat Oil With Health Benefits

For plenty of good reasons, the term “trans fat” leaves a bad taste in the mouths of health-conscious consumers. Typically, trans fatty acids are bad for health, but// scientists at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture have coaxed out significant health benefits by juggling the molecular structure of soy oil.

Andrew Proctor, professor of food science, and graduate student Vishal Jain produced soy oil rich in conjugated linoleic acid. Also known as CLA, studies show it gives the immune system a boost and helps reduce the risks of cancer and diabetes.

Studies also have shown that humans eating diets rich in CLA reduced body fat and waist size, Proctor said.

Proctor and Jain have used the converted oil to produce potato chips that contain high concentrations of CLA. Proctor calls them “healthier potato chips.”

“It is still important to have a low fat diet and we do not propose increasing the fat intake, but a few chips will provide needed CLA,” Proctor said.

“Our goal is to develop a popular food item that offers high concentrations of CLA without increasing saturated fat intake,” Proctor said. “Potato chips suit this purpose well. Subsequent studies may include development of high-CLA salad oils and dressings.”

Marjorie Fitch-Hilgenberg, associate professor of human environmental sciences and director of the dietetics program in Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the U of A, said trans fatty acids occur naturally in meat and dairy products, but in small amounts. Of greater health concern, she said, are the higher concentrations of trans fats artificially produced when hydrogen is added to vegetable oils — producing hydrogenated oils — to extend shelf life and make solid shortenings.

Such trans fats increase levels of low-density lipoproteins, or LDL cholesterol, Fitch-Hilgenberg said, and reduce high-density lipoproteins, or HDL, which counter
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