Getting to Know About Trans Fat in Food


       Although use of trans fat in food does not cause food safety problem, more recent data supports that intake of trans fat can increase the risk of heart disease. In order to “eat healthily and eat safely”, it is necessary to have a better understanding of the trans fat that is found in food.


What is trans fat?

  • Trans fat, which is also known as trans fatty acid, is a type of unsaturated fatty acid that is formed in the process of vegetable oil hydrogenation.
  • The terms, hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, hydrogenated fat, partially hydrogenated fat and vegetable shortening, etc., that are found on nutrition labels on food items, are ingredients that included trans fat.


Health effect of trans fat on human bodies

  • Trans fat increases the concentration of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is always considered as the “bad” cholesterol. Meanwhile, trans fat decreases the concentration of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease.


What types of food contain trans fat?

  • Trans fat is commonly found in processed food, such as frozen pizza, margarine, donuts, coffee creamer, popcorns, breakfast cereal, biscuits, cookies, cakes with icing, frozen noodles, French fries and fried onion rings, etc.


How to lower intake of trans fat?

  • Eat a balanced diet and limit the intake of trans fat as low as possible.
  • Change cooking methods to ways, such as boiling, steaming and baking. Avoid deep frying.
  • Decrease the intake of processed food which contains high content of saturated fat (e.g. ice-cream, pork belly, etc.) and trans fat.
  • Read the nutrition label while purchasing food and choose food items that contain a lower amount of trans fat. 

Recommendation on the amount of trans fat intake

  • World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suggest that the amount of trans fat intake should be no more than 1% of the daily energy requirement.
  • Recently, the United States has announced that from 2018 onwards, food industry can no longer use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil so as to avoid trans fat in processed food. However, the dietary pattern and habit in Macao vary greatly from the one in the United States. Generally speaking, trans fat intake in Macao is far below the 1% limit set by WHO. Therefore, there is no cause for undue concern as long as one can eat less processed food and more fresh food.