Feasibility of recommending certain replacement or alternative fats.Eur J Clin Nutr 2009; 63 Suppl 2:S34-49EJ
Expert groups and public health authorities recommend that trans-fatty acid (TFA) intakes from industrially produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVOs) should be less than 1% of total energy intake. The starting point for any regulatory or nonregulatory response to this recommendation is to assess the extent of the problem by determining where in the food supply TFAs are found and the amounts consumed in the population. Unfortunately, this is a particularly difficult task using traditional methods of dietary assessment inasmuch as food composition databases with TFA data are either nonexistent or incomplete in most countries. Current evidence on estimates of intake suggests there is high variability in TFA intakes and their food sources between countries. The ubiquitous presence of PHVOs in the global food supply in bakery products, deep-fried foods, snack foods, confectionery products and table spreads attests to their commercial value and convenience. However, their common use is more the result of historical convenience from an industry infrastructure developed over 50 years based on efficient, cost-effective hydrogenation of vegetable oils rather than any inherent sensory or physical superiority of the hydrogenated fats over purpose-made zero-trans fats and oils. Current global supply of appropriate zero-trans replacement fats high in cis-unsaturated fatty acids is insufficient to meet the demand if all PHVOs in the food supply were replaced. Regulatory action needs to be coordinated with supply to maximize the opportunity for health gains by replacing partially hydrogenated fats with purpose-ready zero-trans vegetable oils low in saturates and high in cis-unsaturates rather than animal fats and tropical oils high in saturated fatty acids.