The Heart Killer Still Hiding in Your Food

Do your favorite foods hide a ticking time bomb ingredient?

May 22, 2013

Popcorn should be a healthy snack. Read labels to make sure your favorite brand isn't using dangerous trans fatty acids.

By now, you probably know man-made fats, particularly hidden trans fats, aren't good for you. Although many companies have made the move to lower or completely remove the artificial trans fats from their food formulations, a new study from Harvard and Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) researchers shows many popular foods still harbor the potent heart disease–promoting fat.


The findings, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Preventing Chronic Disease journal, also show that efforts to remove trans fat from food have taken a backseat—trans fat reduction has gone from 30 percent between 2007 and 2008 to just 3 percent from 2010 to 2011.

"The big concern about trans fat is it causes heart disease," explains Michael Jacobson, PhD, cofounder and executive director of CSPI. "It has been causing thousands and thousands of heart attack deaths every year for decades. That can stop."

Human bodies aren't designed to process this fake fat, and it induces an unfavorable response, triggering lower good cholesterol levels and higher bad cholesterol levels, producing artery plaque that can break loose and cause a heart attack, Jacobson explains.

These dangerous artificial fatty acids are popular in food manufacturing because they help stabilize food on store shelves. Some fast-food restaurants still deep-fry in trans fat, and it's a go-to fat for things like frosting because its more solid consistency helps keeps the products from becoming too drippy, according to Jacobson.

By law, foods containing more than 0.5 gram of trans fats must list "trans fat" on the label, identifying levels per serving. There's a loophole, though. If the amount is under 0.5 gram, the nutrition label is allowed to say 0 percent trans fat. The workaround? Check the ingredients list. Anything listed as "partially hydrogenated" should serve as a trans fat tip-off. Organic standards ban trans fat, so that's another easy way to avoid this garbage ingredient.

While lots of processed and fast foods still contain trans fat. Here are some of the worst offenders, according to CSPI.

The Trans Fat Hall of Shame

Trans Fat Culprit: Pop Secret Kettle Corn, 5 grams per serving
Better Alternative: Quinn Popcorn (or just make your own).

Trans Fat Culprit: Pop Secret Premium Butter Popcorn, 5 grams per serving
Better Alternative: Skinny Pop

Trans Fat Culprit:UTZ Cheese Flavored Hulless Puff'n Corn, 3.5 grams per serving
Better Alternative: Michael Season's Cheddar Cheese Puffs

Trans Fat Culprit: Jolly Time Blast O Butter Popcorn, 4 grams per serving
Better Alternative: Eden Organic Popcorn

Trans Fat Culprit: Pillsbury Big Deluxe Chocolate Chips Cookie Dough, 2 grams per serving
Better Alternative: Wholly Wholesome Cookie Dough

Trans Fat Culprit: Pillsbury Grands! Buttermilk Biscuits, 3.5 grams per serving
Better Alternative: Immaculate Baking Buttermilk Biscuits

Trans Fat Culprit: Long John Silver's Breaded Clam Strips, 7 grams per serving
Better Alternative: Master Chef Season 3 Winner's Homemade Clam Chowder recipe

Trans Fat Culprit: Sara Lee Key West Lime Pie, 2 grams per serving
Better Alternative: Use trans fat-free graham crackers to whip up this Cool Lime Pie Frappe