So-called “bad” fats can make heart attacks more severe

August 1, 2007 in Healthy Eating, Heart Health

So-called “bad” fats can make heart attacks more severe

Scientists have found that trans and saturated fats not only clog arteries, they also interfere with the electrical rhythm of the heart and increase the risk of sudden death due to a heart attack.

According to University of Alberta researchers, trans and saturated fats cause calcium to build up in the heart, which disrupts the normal rhythm of the heart. An abnormal heart beat makes death from a heart attack more likely and it also makes it harder to recover from a heart attack.

Trans fats are created through a chemical process called partial hydrogenation.  Manufacturers add hydrogen atoms to liquid vegetables oils - often canola and soybean - rendering them semi-solid, like shortening or margarine. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils have advantages for manufacturers: they're cheaper than liquid oils, they have a longer shelf life, and they're better suited for frying.

The majority of trans fat lurks in foods made with hard margarine, shortening or partially hydrogenated oils such as donuts, cookies, pastries, muffins, crackers, and deep-fried fast foods. Trans fat can account for as much as 45% of the total fat in these foods. Trans fat also occurs naturally in beef, lamb and dairy products, but in small amounts.

Saturated fats are found in animal products including whole milk, cheese, butter, meat and poultry.

Canadians are one of the highest consumers of trans fat in the world. Research from Health Canada revealed that the average Canadian consumes 8.4 grams of trans fat per day - about 10% of daily calories. Even more alarming is the fact that Canadian men, aged 18 to 34, are estimated to eat 39 grams of trans fat per day. 

Both Health Canada and the American Heart Association recommend that trans fats be limited to less than 1 percent of total caloric intake or less than 2.5 grams per day. Saturated fats should be limited to less than 7 percent of total caloric intake. 

Packaged foods that are labeled trans fat free will have less than 0.2 grams of trans fat per serving and low in saturated fat.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.