American Heart Association highlights BAD fats and BETTER fats

As the nation moves to significantly reduce trans fat consumption, the American Heart Association is launching "Face The Fats," an educational campaign to teach consumers how to minimize trans fat in their diet, while avoiding the unintended health consequence of defaulting to more saturated fat.

The campaign features an "edutainment" Web site where the Bad Fats Brothers -- named Sat and Trans -- come to life, an interactive fat calculator and recipes developed by celebrity chef Alton Brown.

Among the campaign's top priorities is to encourage replacement of trans fat-laden partially hydrogenated vegetable oils with oils high in unsaturated fats -- monounsaturated and polyunsaturated -- as stated in today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. The journal includes the proceedings of a trans fat conference that the American Heart Association convened to better understand the challenges the country faces as it moves to oils without trans fat.

"Trans fat has received a lot of well-deserved scrutiny -- at the same time, while it's critical that we continue to push aggressively to minimize its consumption, trans fat is just one part of the 'big fat picture,'" said Robert H. Eckel, M.D., immediate past president of the American Heart Association, chair of its trans fat task force and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center at Denver. "It's equally important that we avoid increasing saturated fat in its place. Both trans and saturated fats raise LDLs, the bad cholesterol, and increase the risk of developing heart disease."

On average, American adults consume approximately 2.2 percent of total calories from trans fat and four to five times as much saturated fat a day -- far more than the limits recommended by the American Heart Association. To help consumers better understand the recommended fat limits and make smarter choices, the new campaign features a personalized tool, My Fats Translator, on the campaign's new Website. Users can input their age, gender, height, weight and level of physical activity into the simple calculator tool, and in return receive their personal daily limits for total fat, saturated fat and trans fat consumption.

"Our bodies need some fat, but it's clear that many of us consume a lot more than we need. And all too often we load up on fats that aren't very good for us, passing up more healthful varieties," said campaign spokesperson and celebrity chef Alton Brown, who developed recipes that also are featured on "I'm taking part in this campaign because I want to help people to make better food decisions whether in the market, their kitchens or in restaurants."

The American Heart Association's campaign helps break down complex fat information, focusing initially on the bad fats and healthier alternatives. It's important for consumers to eat all fats in moderation, and eat foods with the "bad" fats as treats only -- once in a while -- rather than often.

BAD fats: Trans and saturated fats -- Trans fat is found in many foods, but especially in commercial baked goods (doughnuts, pastries, muffins, cakes, pie crusts, biscuits and cookies), fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, breaded chicken nuggets and breaded fish), snack foods (crackers), and other foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, vegetable shortening, or hard margarine. (Soft margarines typically do not contain trans fat.) -- Saturated fat occurs naturally in many foods. The saturated fat we eat comes primarily from animal sources, including beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef fat, lard and cream, butter, cheese, and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk. These foods also contain cholesterol. Some plant foods, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also contain saturated fat.

BETTER fats: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats -- Major sources of monounsaturated fat include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocados, and many nuts and seeds. -- Major sources of polyunsaturated fat include a number of vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil), fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout) and some nuts and seeds.

  • Calories from fats: Regardless of the type of fat, all fats have the same number of calories -- every 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories.
  • "Trans fat-free" doesn't automatically mean "healthy": Foods marked "trans fat-free" may still contain saturated fat, the other bad fat, and be high in calories. Introducing the Bad Fats Brothers: Don't Let Them Break Your Heart

As part of its launch, the American Heart Association is introducing the nation to two characters -- literally and figuratively -- named Sat and Trans, the Bad Fats Brothers. The brothers have been created as a mnemonic to personify the bad fats and to give consumers a new way to look at and remember which fats are bad, why they're bad and where they can be found. The two heartbreakers come to life in their debut webisode on their own virtual "edutainment" center, . Consumers also will find "meet me" profiles of each brother; Sat is the older brother who's been around and living large for quite a while and Trans is the younger charmer who's a little sneakier. There also are examples of foods where Sat and Trans are found, as well as downloadable icons and wallpaper with the characters.

In 2006, the American Heart Association updated its Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations, advising consumers to limit their consumption of trans fat to no more than 1 percent of daily caloric intake. The association also encourages removal of trans fat from packaged goods and foods prepared in restaurants and bakeries, and supports related local regulatory efforts, provided that the availability of healthier alternatives and practical guidance to food service establishments are taken into consideration. The association believes in a comprehensive phased-in approach to the replacement of industrially produced trans fat to ensure that a sufficient supply of healthier alternative oils and shortenings are available to restaurants and bakeries to prevent the substitution with unhealthy alternatives.

The American Heart Association's trans fat education campaign is funded by a class action lawsuit settlement against McDonald's. The American Heart Association has the sole judgment as to the most effective use of the funds. For more information on the campaign, call the American Heart Association at 1-800-AHA-USA1.

Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association today is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to reducing disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. These diseases, America's No. 1 and No. 3 killers, claim about 870,000 lives a year. In fiscal year 2005-06, the association invested over $543 million in research, professional and public education, advocacy and community service programs to help all Americans live longer, healthier lives. To learn more, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit


  1. Tony Grau Tony Grau United States says:

    I have heard some much about hydrogenated oils in our foods.
    Are palm fruit oils considered unhealthy to consume ?

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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