Trans Fats: The Nurses Study Slams the Door!

December 20, 2006

Trans Fats:  The Nurses Study Slams the Door! 

 Competency # 13 Fats                                    Reference: American Heart Association Annual Meeting, Report on the Harvard Nurse’s Study, Released Dec 6th, 2006 

 We all love trans fats.  That wonderful pie crust at Christmas, all those luscious holiday chocolates, and the Dairy Whip topping.  Trans fats are wonderfully delicious.  The restaurant with its fantastic fried onions on top of the salad and the French fries with your sandwich. We Americans eat about 4% of our calories in trans fats otherwise known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.  They sneak in everywhere because they make food taste so so good.  And they never spoil. 

 This new study is definitive.  The Harvard Nurses study has been going on for over 30 years now.  It has over 130,000 nurses in it and they have rigorous methods.  With such a huge population for such a long time, information gleaned from it is some of the best we have on long-term problems caused by our nutritional choices.  This study is just about the biggest cohort of carefully followed diets and consequences of those diets in the world.  

This study took a sample of women who had blood work to follow and who had coronary artery disease.  It then matched them with controls based on blood work and time of follow-up. What they found:  with blood work actually collected and measured, those women with the highest amount of trans fats (top 25%) in their blood (had eaten trans fats recently) had 3.3 times the likelihood of having coronary artery disease compared to women with the least.  A 330% increase in incidence!   

This wasn’t just a questionnaire, it was real blood work.  It complements many other studies.  This one was drawn from a larger cohort than most which makes it more reliable. This study complements the Harvard Professional Men’s Health study that had reducing trans fats to less than .5% of calories to be one of their 5 strategies to reduce coronary artery disease by 87%.  That’s two studies we’ve reported on this year. 

 WWW:  What will work for me?  This is now the first item on my resolution list for next year.  I’m going to try and avoid trans fats even more.  I’m getting good at reading labels on food I buy with packages.  It’s time for me to also think about restaurant food.  New York is banning trans fats in their restaurants.  Cleveland is considering doing the same.  Some school districts have done the same.   When I go to a restaurant, however, I can’t tell what’s made with trans fats.  I know I can’t eat the fries.  I’m also just avoiding restaurant fried food.  It’s the hash browns, the Friday Fish Fry, the grilled cheese.

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-the 784-5300)