Trans fats are now said to be ‘safe at low levels’

According to a study carried out by researchers at Heidelberg University, low levels of trans fats (or trans fatty acids) may not be as harmful as it was previously thought.

Their findings were also true of industrially produced trans fats (which occur when oil is put through a process of hydrogenation, making it more solid). The research claims that TFAs could even be good for you if they occur naturally in dairy or meat products.

The study, which was published in the European Heart Journal, looked at 3,259 people who were hospitalised with heart conditions between 1997 and 2010. Over the course of the study 30 per cent of these patients had died.

The researchers examined blood samples and measured the amount of TFAs present, and were able to distinguish between those that were naturally occurring and industrially produced. This information was cross compared with a detailed report of the patient’s medical history.

Dr Marcus Kleber, the study’s lead author, said:

‘We found that higher concentrations of TFAs in the membranes of red blood cells were associated with higher LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, but also with lower BMI, lower fats in the blood (triglycerides) and less insulin resistance and, therefore, a lower risk of diabetes.

‘We were surprised to find that naturally occurring TFAs were associated with a lower rate of deaths from any cause, and this was driven mainly by a lower risk of sudden cardiac death.

‘Our results show that the low levels of industrially produced TFA we found in the LURIC study did not pose a health risk, and therefore could be regarded as safe.’

Trans fatty acids are regularly used as ingredients in processed food. High levels of TFAs can lead to serious health problems, and have been linked to conditions ranging from infertility to Alzheimer’s disease.