Trans Fats From Ruminant Animals May Be Beneficial


A Canadian review, published in the latest edition of Advances In Nutrition suggests that trans fatty acids from ruminant animal sources, dairy, beef and lamb, may have beneficial health effects including reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Dr. Spencer Proctor, one of the review authors and Director of the Metabolic and Cardiovascular Diseases Laboratory at the University of Alberta in Canada says, “The body of evidence clearly points to a change needed in how nutrition labels are handled. Right now in Canada and US a substantial portion of natural trans fats content is included in the nutrition label trans fats calculation, which is misleading for the consumer. We need a reset in our approach to reflect what the new science is telling us.”

The review notes that consumers are bombarded with information on what is healthy to eat and what is unhealthy. Fat is the usual target determining the healthiness of foods. But consumers are told that all trans fats are especially unhealthy.

The review noted that eating natural trans fats from animal sources had different bodily reactions than consuming the industrial trans fats, which are derived from hydrogenated oils and used to increase the shelf life of many manufactured food items.

According to the review, the industrial trans fatty acids have been shown to adversely affect multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors, including increasing concentrations of lipids, lipoproteins and inflammatory markers. But when patients in one study were given butter with high concentrations of ruminant trans fatty acid enriched with vaccenic acid (VA), the predominant trans monoene isomer in ruminant fats (50 – 80% total trans fat), plasma total cholesterol was reduced by 6% and high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) was reduced by 9%, compared to the control butter that had a low concentration of VA.

Dr. Proctor was given a $1 million research grant by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency to further study these effects over the next several years. He said, “With industry, science, regulators and other important groups in this area working together, we can continue to make strides to help the public better understand the health implications of natural ruminant trans fats.”

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