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Industry Happenings, Research

CHICAGO, IL – A multidisciplinary panel of nutrition and clinical experts convened in late 2008 to review the science around possible solutions for replacement of trans fat and to discuss the implications for food manufacturers. In a consensus statement recently released, the panelists concluded that when possible, trans fats should be replaced with a polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat; however when a saturated fat is needed for functionality it can be expected that overall cardiovascular disease risk would be improved compared to trans fats.

Participants of the roundtable included:

  • George Blackburn, MD ‐ Associate Professor of Surgery and Nutrition, Associate Director of the Division of Nutrition, and first incumbent of the S. Daniel Abraham chair in Nutrition Medicine at Harvard Medical School
  • Margo Denke, MD – formerly of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Center for Human Nutrition; panel member on the National Cholesterol Education Program Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults convened by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
  • Richard Feinman, PhD of the State University of New York Downstate; director of the Nutrition & Metabolism Society and co‐editor in chief of the Open Access online journal, Nutrition & Metabolism
  • Christopher Gardner, PhD ‐ associate research professor in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University and faculty in the Stanford Prevention Research Center
  • KC Hayes, DVM, PhD ‐ professor of biology (nutrition) and director of Foster Biomedical Research Laboratory and Animal Resources at Brandeis University
  • Michael McBurney, PhD, FACN – formerly from Texas A&M’s department of nutrition and food science and Kellogg Company
  • Jeff Volek, PhD ‐ associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology with an adjunct appointment in the Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut

The panelists also explored other considerations in replacing trans fats, including how two saturated fat replacement solutions, palmitic acid and stearic acid, exert different effects on markers that are important for cardiovascular disease risk. Specifically, while it is known palmitic acid increases both LDL and HDL cholesterol, there is preliminary evidence that stearic acid increases inflammatory markers and can adversely impact plasma cholesterol profiles when fed in high amounts, especially if included as part of a modified fat structure.

“The panel realized the complexity of giving clear guidance to the baking industry so they would know how to reconcile the challenges of replacing trans fat,” according to KC Hayes, DVM, PhD. “Science that previously only considered how fatty acids impacted LDL is now aware that saturated fats can play a role in a balanced diet, and that all fats have varying effects on LDL, HDL, triglycerides, inflammatory markers and blood sugar.”

Hayes stated, “There are considerable data on palmitic acid and only preliminary data on stearic acid at high levels of consumption. As the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are in development it is important for policymakers to recognize that any effort to make a claim about the superiority of one type of saturated fat over another requires more knowledge”