Magazine article Science News

Ingredient Shuffle: A Trans Fat Substitute Might Have Risks Too

Magazine article Science News

Ingredient Shuffle: A Trans Fat Substitute Might Have Risks Too

Article excerpt

A controversial nutritional test of a chemically modified fat suggests that the substance is more harmful, in at least some respects, than are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that it's intended to replace.

Many food producers are phasing out partially hydrogenated oils, which contain trans fats, substances that have been linked to heart disease. For certain products, such as baker's shortening and margarine, some companies are turning to interesterified fats.

Interesterification shuffles the fatty acids that make up each fat molecule (www. asp). Like partial hydrogenation, interesterification produces molecules that seldom or never appear in nature.

The new study reports worrisome changes in blood-glucose and cholesterol concentrations in 30 volunteers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who had consumed a diet containing large amounts of interesterified fat.

But scientists who weren't involved in the study criticize it for comparing forms of fat that they say can't be used as direct substitutes for one another.

In the study, nutritional pathologist K.C. Hayes of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and two Malaysian researchers fed volunteers three diets during different 4-week periods. Each diet used a different source of fat, either a trans fat-rich, partially hydrogenated soybean oil; an interesterified soybean oil; or a natural substance, palm oil. A palm oil-industry group funded the study.

The trans fat and interesterified-fat diets had a more negative effect on volunteers' beneficial, or HDL, cholesterol than the palm oil diet did. …

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