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Trans Fatty Acids

By William Misner Ph.D.

Athletes are attracted to the Hammer Nutrition all-natural stance1 against the dietary use of harmful preservatives, additives, refined simple sugars, pro-hormones, saturated fats, and now the worst of the worst, Trans Fatty Acids. Each Endurance Sports competitor is motivated, concerned, and carefully calculates their muscle mass gain including fat loss for moving through time and space in the least amount of time. A friend favoring fastest movement speed through time and space is lean muscle mass supported by a powerful cardiovascular blood flow to service working muscles. Most athletes are well aware that 97% of dietary fat is deposited in adipose tissue sites as dead weight. We must be made aware that dietary saturated fats and trans fat elevate harmful blood lipid levels that (clog) initiate impairment of maximum blood flow from the heart to working muscles.

Science especially those published by Cardiovascular medicine has been emphatically warning Americans for 2 decades to reduce their intake of foods high in saturated fats and trans fats, but the warnings have gone unheeded. Americans have instead increased these harmful fats as evidenced by the onset of a processed-fast food obesity epidemic. We need to reduce dietary saturated fats and to absolutely avoid all trans fats for which there is zero-tolerance. The new FDA requirement that trans fats be included in the Nutrition Facts panel has created a need for the routine determination of the total trans fat content of edible oils and fats and for the monitoring of the formation of trans isomers during processing of vegetable oils.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) advises: "Trans fatty acids are not essential and provide no known benefit to human health, whether of animal or plant origin (NAT 2005)." Second, while both saturated and trans fats increase levels of LDL cholesterol ("BAD" cholesterol), trans fats also lower levels of HDL cholesterol ("GOOD" cholesterol) (NAT 2005); this increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). The NAS is concerned "that dietary trans fatty acids are more deleterious with respect to CHD than saturated fatty acids". (NAT 2005) This analysis is supported by a 2006 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) scientific review that states "from a nutritional standpoint, the consumption of trans fatty acids results in considerable potential harm but no apparent benefit."(Mozaffarian et al., 2006) Because of these facts and concerns, the National Academy of Science has concluded there is NO safe level of trans fat consumption. There is NO adequate level, recommended daily amount or tolerable upper limit for trans fats. This is because any incremental increase in trans fat intake increases the risk of coronary heart disease. (NAT 2005)


In a natural fatty acid, the hydrogen atoms are usually on the same side of the double bonds of the carbon chain. However, partial hydrogenation reconfigures most of the double bonds that do not become chemically saturated, twisting them so that the hydrogen atoms end up on different sides of the chain. This type of configuration is called trans, which means "across".

Oleic acid is a cis unsaturated fat that comprises 55-80% of olive oil. Elaidic acid is a trans unsaturated fat and a major trans fat found in hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Elaidic acid is a trans unsaturated fat and a major trans fat found in hydrogenated vegetable oils.

These fats are geometric isomers (chemically identical except for the arrangement of the double bonds2.

The amount of trans fat in the product is dependent on reaction conditions. Increasing the pressure the oil is hydrogenated reduces trans fat formation. Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture applied 1400 kPa (200 psi) of pressure to soybean oil in a 2-litre vessel while heating it to between 140°C and 170°C. The standard 140 kPa (20 psi) process of hydrogenation produces a product of about 40% trans fat by weight, compared to about 17% using the high pressure method. Blended with unhydrogenated liquid soybean oil, the high pressure processed oil produced margarine containing 5 to 6% trans fat which could qualify for a label of zero grams of trans fat (Eller 2005).

The primary health risk identified for trans fat consumption is an elevated risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). A comprehensive review of studies of trans fats was published in 2006 in the New England Journal of Medicine that concludes that there is a strong and reliable connection between trans fats and CHD (Mozaffarian et al. 2006). The major evidence for the effect of trans fat on CHD comes from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) - a cohort study that has been following 120,000 female nurses since its inception in 1976. Hu and colleagues analyzed data from 900 coronary events from the NHS population during 14 years of followup. He determined that a nurse's CHD risk roughly doubled (relative risk of 1.94) for each 2% increase in trans fat calories consumed (instead of carbohydrate calories). By contrast, it takes more than a 15% increase in saturated fat calories (instead of carbohydrate calories) to produce a similar increase in risk. Eating non-trans unsaturated fats instead of carbohydrates reduces the risk of CHD rather than increasing it. (Hu et al., 1997). Hu also reports on the benefits of reducing trans fat consumption. Replacing 2% of food energy from trans fat with non-trans unsaturated fats more than halves the risk of CHD (53%). By comparison, replacing a larger 5% of food energy from saturated fat with non-trans unsatured fats reduces the risk of CHD by 43%.

There are two accepted measures of risk for coronary heart disease, both blood tests. The first considers ratios of two types of cholesterol, the other the amount a cell-signaling cytokine called C-reactive protein. The ratio test is more accepted, while the cytokine test may be more powerful but is still being studied (Wikipedia). The effect of trans fat consumption has been documented on each as follows:

  • Cholesterol ratio: This ratio compares the levels of LDL (so-called "bad" cholesterol) to HDL (so-called "good" cholesterol). Trans fat behaves like saturated fat by raising the level of LDL, but unlike saturated fat it has the additional effect of decreasing levels of HDL. The net increase in LDL/HDL ratio with trans fat is approximately double that due to saturated fat. (Ascherio 1999) (Higher ratios are worse.)

  • C-reactive protein (CRP): A study of over 700 nurses showed that those in the highest quartile of trans fat consumption had blood levels of CRP that was 73% higher than those in the lowest quartile. (Lopez-Garcia 2005)

Another study considered deaths due to CHD, with consumption of trans fats being linked to an increase in mortality, and consumption of polyunsaturated fats being linked to a decrease in mortality. (Oh et al., 2005))

Other HARMFUL effects

There has been suggestion that the negative consequences of trans fat consumption go beyond the cardiovascular risk. In general, there is much less scientific consensus that eating trans fat specifically increases the risk of other chronic health problems:

  • Cancer: There is no scientific consensus that consumption of trans fats significantly increases cancer risks across the board. The American Cancer Society states that a relationship between trans fats and cancer "has not been determined." Yet one study has found connections between trans fat and prostate cancer! (Chavarro et al., 2006)

  • Diabetes: There is a growing concern that the risk of type 2 diabetes increases with trans fat consumption. However, consensus has not been reached. (Mozaffarian et al. 2006) For example, one study found that risk is higher for those in the highest quartile of trans fat consumption. (Hu et al., 2001) Another study has found no diabetes risk once other factors such as total fat intake and BMI were accounted for. (van Dam et al., 2002)

  • Obesity: Research with monkeys indicates that trans fat may increase weight gain and abdominal fat, despite a similar caloric intake (Gosline 2006). A 6-year experiment revealed that monkeys fed a trans-fat diet gained 7.2% of their body weight, as compared to 1.8% for monkeys on a mono-unsaturated fat diet. Although obesity is frequently linked to trans fat in the popular media (Thompson 2003), this is generally in the context of eating too many calories; there is no scientific consensus connecting trans fat and obesity.

  • Liver Dysfunction: Trans fats are metabolized differently by the liver than other fats and interfere with delta 6 desaturase. Delta 6 desaturase is an enzyme involved in converting essential fatty acids to arachidonic acid and prostaglandins, both of which are important to the functioning of cells (Mahfouz 1981).

Trans-fatty acid, also known as trans-fat, is formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil in order to change the liquid oil into a solid at room temperature. This process is called hydrogenation. Trans fatty acids are deliberate artificial saturation namely "hydrogenation" of oil by altering molecular level-structures that results in a type of fat higher in saturated fatty acids than liquid oil including a molecular transformation in monounsaturated fatty acids. Hence the name is called trans fats.


The amount of trans fat is related to how much a person eats. Even mother€™s milk affected by how much trans fat the mother eats. It has been established that trans fats in human milk fluctuate with maternal consumption of trans fat, and that the amount of trans fats in the bloodstream of breastfed infants fluctuates with the amounts found in their milk. Reported percentages of trans (compared to total fats) in human milk range from 1% in Spain, 2% in France, and 4% in Germany, and +7% in Canada & USA (Innis et al., 1999 & 2005). Saturated fat is found in foods like beef tallow, butter, certain oils, meat, eggs and other dairy products. Sources of saturated fats typically include egg yolks, red meat, pork, chicken with skin, ice cream, creams, butter, other dairy products, lard, palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil. The amount of saturation of fatty acids in fat determines the temperature at which it melts. The more unsaturated the fat, the more liquid it remains at room temperature. And, of course, the more saturated the fat is the more solid it remains at room temperature.

Figure 2. (Above) A diagram to describe the spectra occurring in a trans double bond region of corn oil at 102°C after 5, 30, 70, and 155 min. (102°C = 215.6°F)3

Trans fats [TFA] are unsaturated fatty acids whose carbon chains contain double bonds in the trans configuration rather than the more common cis configuration. Edible oils have only negligible amounts of Trans fats [TFA] (Semma 2002). However, when exposed to heat the cis double bonds in oil may be isomerized to their trans configuration. The amount of thermal isomerization is a function of temperature, exposure time and degree of unsaturation of the oil (van de Voort et al., 1994). In this application we monitored in real-time in situ the thermal isomerization of corn oil at a moderate temperature (102°C).


The spectra of the heated corn oil were collected in situ using the FatIR„¢ in an infrared spectrometer with a DTGS detector and conditions set for 32 scans at 4 cm-1 resolution. Corn oil was placed on the slightly preheated (30°C) crystal covering the entire sampling surface. The spectrum of corn oil at 30°C was collected. The temperature of the crystal was slowly raised from 30°C to 102°C over a 15 minute period. Spectra of the corn oil at 102°C were collected after 5, 30, 70, and 155 minutes. The crystal was allowed to cool to 30°C and the spectrum of the cooled corn oil was collected. The spectrum of corn oil at 102°C recorded at t = 0 minutes was subtracted from the spectra recorded after t = 5, 30, 70, and 155 minutes.

RESULTS: Figure 2 (illustrated above) illustrates the changes that take place in the TRANS DOUBLE BOND REGION (1050-900 cm-1) of the spectrum due to prolonged exposure to moderate heat. There is a marked progressive rise in the 966 cm-1 trans band with time. In addition to the rise of the 966 cm-1 peak there is also an initial increase in the 985 cm-1 peak that disappears later on. The increase of the trans band with time is paralleled with a decrease of the band at 3010 cm-1 associated with the CH stretching vibration of cis double bonds. By comparing the spectra of corn oil before heating (T = 30°C) and after cooling back to 30°C, in the regions of interest, we see that there are heat induced changes increases in the trans regions and decreases in the cis regions. Specifically, there is an increase in the concentration of the trans isomers of thermally induced trans fats and a simultaneous decrease in the concentration of the natural/original cis isomers in corn oil.


Current estimates of trans-fatty acid intake in developed countries range from 0.5 to 2.6% of energy. The new science tells us there is a ZERO-tolerance for trans fats. What else has a ZERO-tolerance? How about the ZERO-tolerance asbestos insulation and lead water pipes?

A number of studies have been conducted to evaluate the effects of trans-fatty acids on plasma lipids. Results from the various studies are similar. In general, it is agreed that the consumption of trans-fatty acids or hydrogenated fats instead of cis-fatty acids or natural oils led to increases in total blood cholesterol levels but not as much as the consumption of saturated fatty acids. However, unlike saturated fat, trans-fatty acids also led to an increase in LDL cholesterol and a decrease in HDL cholesterol when used. As a result, the net effect of trans-fatty acids on the LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio is approximately double that of saturated fat. Furthermore, the consumption of trans-fatty acids also led to increased plasma triglyceride levels. These changes may increase the risk of coronary diseases. Apparently, replacing butter with margarine high in trans-fatty acids may obtain no benefit; instead, the consumption of trans-fatty acids may even increase the risk of having coronary hear diseases. Though soft margarine is slightly better than hard margarine, or reducing the overall consumption of fat will maintain heart health. Avoid the use of processed solid at room temperature fats, heart health and athletic performance will benefit immediately.




Hard Margarine


Soft Margarine, Low in PUFA


Chocolate Cake with Icing


Soft Margarine, High in PUFA

5.2 %





Fried Meats


Grilled Meats


Safflower Oil


Sunflower Oil


Soy Oil


Olive Oil


Flax Oil


Salmon Oil







AVOID foods high in saturated fat: fatty beef, veal, lamb, pork, lard, poultry fat, butter, cream, milk, cheese and other dairy products made from whole milk. These foods also contain dietary cholesterol. Foods from plants high in saturated fat include coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil (often called tropical oils), and cocoa butter.


I recommend avoiding both because any fat that is solid at room temperature is the same way deposited in adipose tissue "Fat" on the walls of arteries, veins, around vital organs, and it is harmful to human health. Saturated fats and trans fatty acids inhibit health-enhancing effects from good foods and increase the risk of cardiopathology as early as conception and extend through adult life. Margarine made from vegetable oils, contains no cholesterol, is higher in "good" fats (polyunsaturated & monounsaturated) than butter. "Good" types of fat reduce "bad" cholesterol low-density lipoprotein (LDL). However, margarine is processed using a method called hydrogenation, inducing unhealthy trans fat content. The more solid the margarine, the more trans fats it contains; stick margarine usually have slightly more trans fats than do tub margarines. Butter is made from animal fat, and therefore very high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Margarine is only slightly better than butter, but both can coat the inside of the human body in the exact same manner that they spread a coat on bread or pastries. Saturated fats and trans fats increase blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Trans fats lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol levels. Manufacturers are now required to list saturated and trans fats separately on food labels; Read the labels carefully.

Fat Tips4

Here are some practical tips you can use every day to keep your consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol low while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.

  • Check the Nutrition Facts panel to compare foods because the serving sizes are generally consistent in similar types of foods. Choose foods lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. For saturated fat and cholesterol, keep in mind that 5 percent of the Daily Value (%DV) or less is low and 20 percent or more is high. (There is no %DV for trans fat.)

  • Choose alternative fats. Replace saturated and trans fats in your diet with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats do not raise LDL cholesterol levels and have health benefits when eaten in moderation. Sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and foods like nuts.

  • Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the combined amount of saturated fat and trans fat is lower than the amount in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter.

  • Consider fish. Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as mackerel, sardines, and salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are being studied to determine if they offer protection against heart disease.

  • Choose lean meats, such as poultry without the skin and not fried and lean beef and pork, not fried, with visible fat trimmed.

  • Ask before you order when eating out. A good tip to remember is to ask which fats are being used in the preparation of your food when eating or ordering out.

  • Limit foods high in cholesterol such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks, and full-fat dairy products, like whole milk.

  • Choose foods low in saturated fat such as fat free or 1% dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods, and fruits and vegetables.


Ascherio A (1999). "Trans fatty acids and coronary heart disease." New England Journal of Medicine 340 (25): 1994€“1998.

American Cancer Society "Common Questions About Diet and Cancer}"

Appendix 9iii @

Chavarro et al., "A prospective study of blood trans fatty acid levels and risk of prostate cancer," Proc. Amer. Assoc. Cancer Res., Volume 47, 2006.

Appendix 9iii Consultation on the health implications of alternatives to trans fatty acids Summary of Responses from Experts @

E. E Mosley, A. L Wright, M. K McGuire, and M. A McGuire trans Fatty acids in milk produced by women in the United States Am. J. Clinical Nutrition, December 1, 2005; 82(6): 1292-1297.

Esther Lopez-Garcia (2005). "Consumption of Trans Fatty Acids Is Related to Plasma Biomarkers of Inflammation and Endothelial Dysfunction". The Journal of Nutrition 135 (3): 562€“566. PMID 15735094

F. R. van de Voort, A. A. Ismail, J. Sedman and G. Emo, J. Am. Oil Chem. Soc., 71, 243-253 (1994).

FJ Eller (2005). "Preparation of spread oils meeting U.S. Food and Drug Administration Labeling requirements for trans fatty acids via pressure-controlled hydrogenation". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53 (15): 5982€“5984. PMID 16028984.

Gosline, Anna Why fast foods are bad, even in moderation New Scientist 12 June 2006.

Hu, FB, Stampfer, MJ, Manson, JE, Rimm, E, Colditz, GA, Rosner, BA, Hennekens, CH, Willett, WC (1997). "Dietary fat intake and the risk of coronary heart disease in women". New England Journal of Medicine 337 (21): 1491-1499. PMID 9366580)

Hu, FB, van Dam, RM, Liu, S (2001). "Diet and risk of Type II diabetes: the role of types of fat and carbohydrate". Diabetologia 44 (7): 805-817. PMID 11508264

Innis, Sheila M and King, D Janette (1999). "trans Fatty acids in human milk are inversely associated with concentrations of essential all-cis n-6 and n-3 fatty acids and determine trans, but not n-6 and n-3, fatty acids in plasma lipids of breast-fed infants". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 70 (3): 383€“390.

M Mahfouz (1981). "Effect of dietary trans fatty acids on the delta 5, delta 6 and delta 9 desaturases of rat liver microsomes in vivo". Acta biologica et medica germanica 40 (12): 1699€“1705.

Masanari Semma, Journal of Health Science, 48(1), 7-13 (2002).

Mozaffarian D, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC (April 2006). "Trans Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease". New England Journal of Medicine 354 (15): 1601-1613. PMID 16611951.

NAT' Academies Press, Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients) (2005) p 423-504.

Oh, K, Hu, FB, Manson, JE, Stampfer, MJ, Willett, WC (2005). "Dietary fat intake and risk of coronary heart disease in women: 20 years of follow-up of the nurses' health study". American Journal of Epidemiology 161 (7): 672-679. PMID 15781956

Summary of Responses from Experts @

Trans Fat Press Conference by Tommy G. Thompson, US Secretary of health and human services; 2003 @

van Dam RM, Stampfer M, Willett WC, Hu FB, Rimm EB (2002). "Dietary fat and meat intake in relation to risk of type 2 diabetes in men". Diabetes care 25 (3): 417-424. PMID 11874924

Wikipedia link @

1 The processing applied to the Hammer Nutrition product line strictly adheres to NO unhealthy manipulation of an ingredient fatty acid molecular structure.

2 Courtesy of Wikipedia @

3 Real-Time Monitoring of Thermally Induced Trans Fats in Corn Oil ... to heat the cis double bonds in. oil may be isomerized to their trans configuration. The amount of thermal isomerization is a function of temperature (modified for simplification) from

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