There are a number of risk factors for heart disease. Did you know that research suggests that as many as 30,000 premature coronary heart disease deaths each year could be due to trans fatty acids’ Keep reading to learn more about this unique type of dietary fat. What are trans fatty acids’ Trans fatty acids (also called trans fats) are a type of unsaturated fat. Sources of trans fatty acids in the diet About 3 percent of a person’s energy comes from trans fatty acids. Some trans fats are from natural sources like beef and dairy foods. Most of the trans fats people consume are from foods made with hydrogenated oils such as fried foods, baked goods like cookies and crackers, sweets and margarine. What is hydrogenation’ In simple terms, hydrogenation is a process by which hydrogen is added to unsaturated fats, making the fats more solid. This is how vegetable oils are made into shortening and margarine. Advantages of hydrogenation Hydrogenated fats have a longer shelf life. They also give a desired texture to certain foods. For example, margarine made from hydrogenated vegetable oil is easier to spread. The downside of hydrogenation When a vegetable oil is hydrogenated, that unsaturated fat becomes a saturated fat. Diets high in saturated fat can increase chances of getting heart disease. In addition, some of the fatty acids become trans fatty acids and remain unsaturated after hydrogenation. Trans fatty acids and heart disease risk High intakes of trans fatty acids can raise blood levels of LDL cholesterol (a.k.a. the “bad” cholesterol) and reduce levels of HDL cholesterol (a.k.a. the “good” cholesterol). High intakes of trans fatty acids may also raise levels of a compound called lipoprotein (a), which is similar to LDL cholesterol. These changes may increase one’s risk for getting heart disease. Should consumers be concerned about trans fatty acids (trans fats) in the diet’ People consume about 13 percent of their calories from saturated fat and about three percent of calories from trans fat. Since saturated fats are thought to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than trans fats, experts suggest that consumers eat both saturated and trans fat in moderation. Spotting trans fats in food The amount of trans fatty acids is not found on food labels. To see if a food has trans fats, consumers must look at the ingredient list on the food package. If the list has the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated,” then that food has trans fats. Consumer those foods in moderation. Heart disease is a complex disease that has many risk factors. Blood lipids are only one risk factor. Other risk factors for heart disease include cigarette smoking, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, male gender, age and family history.