The truth comes out about trans fatWhether you’re in or out of Korea, chances are you’re heard talk of a serious gastronomic issue: trans fat.
The Korea Food & Drug Administration is drawing up a legislative proposal to require some food products to clearly indicate the amount of trans fat in them, beginning next year. The American Heart Association also recently included a new guideline for cardiovascular health, saying people should consume no more than 1 percent of trans fat calories per total calories consumed. Despite the brou ha ha, people still seem to know little about trans fats and how much they should consume.
Trans fat is produced when liquid cooking oil turns solid or congeals, which is why there’s so much of it in shortening and margarine. Trans fat is harmful to blood vessels, can aggravate arteriosclerosis and heightens the risk of heart disease and brain hemorrhages. This is because trans fat lowers the concentration of HDL cholesterol, which cleanses blood vessels, while it raises the concentration of LDL cholesterol.
“Trans fat is a type of unsaturated fat, but it acts like a saturated fat or animal fat in blood vessel,” said Song Young-seon, a nutrition science professor at Inje University. “It is known to be more harmful for arteriosclerosis patients than saturated fat.”
The Harvard School of Public Health estimated that trans fat raises the level of cholesterol in blood twice as much as saturated fat.
Trans fat broke two major myths about fat: that unsaturated fat contained in vegetables and fish are good for one’s vascular system, and that margarine (vegetable fat) is better for one’s health than butter (animal fat).
The World Health Organization also recommended that people should limit their trans fat consumption to under 1 percent of their total daily consumption of calories. One’s total daily serving of trans fat should be limited to 2.2 grams or less.
“Koreans already consume a considerable amount of trans fat because Westernization has changed eating habits, such as consumption of instant and fast foods,” said Ha Jae-ho at the Korea Food Research Institute. “Our research indicates that Koreans take in 2.6 grams of trans fat every day.”
That’s less than the average amount consumed in the United States (6 to 15 grams) and Canada (8.4 grams). However, it is more than the amount recommended by health authorities in countries such as Denmark (2 grams) and France (2.3 grams).
The problem is that there are few food products that indicate their trans fat content. A number of foods manufacturers have said they would start indicating trans fat content on their products in September. Some makers of shortening and margarine have also launched low-trans fat products.
There are ways to reduce one’s amount of trans fat intake. “For frying, a vegetable oil such as soybean oil is recommended rather than shortening,” said Park Hye-kyung at the Korea Food & Drug Administration. “You should also use less margarine on toast and in fried rice.”
Oil also shouldn’t be reused. Overcooked soybean oil, for instance, has 5 to 10 percent more trans fat, according to one study.
In general, bread, biscuits, microwave popcorn and fried chicken have high trans fat contents. On average, the softer the bread ― particularly in things such as danishes and donuts ― the more trans fat.
by Park Tae-kyun