By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Since health concerns about the consumption of trans fat and increased risk of health conditions such as coronary heart disease have arisen, there has been a need for nutritional guidelines outlining the safe consumption of trans fat.
In 2003, the World Health Organization recognized the negative effects that trans fat consumption can have on health and risk of cardiovascular disease. As a result, it recommended that trans fat should make up less than 1% of total energy intake.
This has been taken as a general base guideline throughout the world, although the recommendations of each country vary slightly. It is evident, however, that the general aim of the guidelines remains to be to reduce overall consumption of trans fat.
Nutritional Guidelines in the United States and Canada
The National Academy of Sciences advises the public that the consumption of any trans fat is not necessary and is not associated with any known benefits. Additionally, as trans fats increase LDL cholesterol and reduce HDL cholesterol, they result in an exaggerated increased risk of coronary heart disease. On this basis, trans fats should be avoided as there is no known safe level of consumption and even a small increase could heighten risk of disease.
However, current recommendations are to keep consumption as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet, as come trans fat are naturally found in some dairy products.
In the United States, food producers are required to state the content of trans fat on the food label if it is in excess of 0.5 g per serving. This is a positive step to inform consumers of their fat intake, but it should also be considered that some individuals eat several servings at once, or may consume several products that contain trans fat.
Nutritional Guidelines in United Kingdom
In the UK, the consumption of trans fat has reduced significantly over the past decade to 1.2% of total energy intake, which is close to the guideline set by the World Health Organization. However, this is an average figure and some individuals continue to consume trans fat in excess.
It is not currently necessary for food products in the UK to be labeled with their trans fat content as it is in the US, although some health activists are in favor of making this change.
Current recommendations are to reduce the consumption of trans fat as much as possible, as they are not necessary for the function of the body. Following general healthy eating advice, including opting for fresh foods rather than fried and fatty foods, is suggested to reduce intake of trans fat.
Nutritional Guidelines in Australia and New Zealand
On average, populations from Australia and New Zealand consume levels of trans fat well within the guideline of 1% of total energy intake suggested by the World Health Organization, with 0.5% of energy intake being accounted for by trans fat. It has been suggested that trans fat is lower in Australasia than other regions of the world because consumption of saturated fat is higher, which also poses a risk to health.
Similarly to the UK, Australian food products are not required to state the content of trans fat on the label. However, if a health claim about cholesterol or certain types of fatty acids is made on the packaging, the trans fat content must also be stated.
Last Updated: Jun 14, 2015