With a bulk of evidence against trans fatty acids (TFA), a new study showed that it may not be as harmful as it seems.
A research published in the European Heart Journal found that not all trans fats may be harmful and may even be good for the body if they come from natural food sources such as meat and dairy products. Researchers hope that these findings will be able to encourage other health experts to learn more about the vilified TFAs.
"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," Dr. Marcus Kleber, one of the study's researchers, said of their findings. Surprisingly, the group also found that naturally-sourced trans fats can help lower death rates mainly due to TFAs lowering the risk for sudden cardiac arrest.
Researchers led by Kleber of the Heidelberg University's Medical Faculty Mannheim measured trans fatty acids levels found in blood of more than 3,200 people living in southwest Germany. The participants who joined had coronary angiographies to check for heart diseases from 1997 to 2000. Thirty percent of the patients reportedly died, most within a span of 10 years.
Aside from blood TFA concentrations, researchers also analyzed the difference of concentrations between natural and industrially made TFAs. They then linked these findings with patients' medical history, causes of death, lifestyle habits, medication, lack of exercise and abnormal body mass index (BMI). Based on the results, the tran fats concentration proportion of the volunteers averaged at less than 1 percent based on the range of 0.27 to 2.40 percent.
Kleber explained that the results showed that low amounts of artificially-made trans fatty acids can be considered safe for humans while the naturally occurring variety can even be beneficial to consumers. He also added that naturally-sourced trans fats can even be beneficial to the body. "We also found that (a naturally occurring TFA) trans-palmitoleic acid is associated with better blood glucose levels and fewer deaths from any cause, but especially a lower risk of sudden cardiac death," Kleber said.
According to the study, it is noteworthy that increases in the concentrations of industrially produced TFAs did not raise mortality rates, contrary to previous research that said otherwise in the U.S. Kleber and his team believe that this may be due to the lower TFA levels of the study participants compared to typical Americans.
Photo: Ewan Munro | Flickr