Metabolic studies suggest that fatty acids containing at least one double bond in the trans configuration, which are found in hydrogenated fat, have a detrimental effect on serum lipoprotein cholesterol levels as compared with unsaturated fatty acids containing double bonds only in the cis configuration. We compared the effects of diets with a broad range of trans fatty acids on serum lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
Eighteen women and 18 men consumed each of six diets in random order for 35-day periods. The foods were identical in each diet, and each diet provided 30 percent of calories as fat, with two thirds of the fat contributed as soybean oil (<0.5 g of trans fatty acid per 100 g of fat), semiliquid margarine (<0.5 g per 100 g), soft margarine (7.4 g per 100 g), shortening (9.9 g per 100 g), or stick margarine (20.1 g per 100 g). The effects of those diets on serum lipoprotein cholesterol, triglyceride, and apolipoprotein levels were compared with those of a diet enriched with butter, which has a high content of saturated fat.
The mean (+/-SD) serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level was 177+/-32 mg per deciliter (4.58+/-0.85 mmol per liter) and the mean high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level was 45+/-10 mg per deciliter (1.2+/-0.26 mmol per liter) after subjects consumed the butter-enriched diet. The LDL cholesterol level was reduced on average by 12 percent, 11 percent, 9 percent, 7 percent, and 5 percent, respectively, after subjects consumed the diets enriched with soybean oil, semiliquid margarine, soft margarine, shortening, and stick margarine; the HDL cholesterol level was reduced by 3 percent, 4 percent, 4 percent, 4 percent, and 6 percent, respectively. Ratios of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol were lowest after the consumption of the soybean-oil diet and semiliquid-margarine diet and highest after the stick-margarine diet.
Our findings indicate that the consumption of products that are low in trans fatty acids and saturated fat has beneficial effects on serum lipoprotein cholesterol levels.