Study: Trans Fats Triple Heart Risk

A Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) study to be published next week establishes the strongest link yet between coronary heart disease (CHD) and trans fat.

Previous studies have established a connection between diets high in trans fat and CHD, but the HSPH study marked the first attempt by researchers to look specifically at the effects of elevated blood trans fat levels.

The study followed a sample of U.S. women over a six-year period, recording the amounts of trans fatty acid in their red blood cells. Participants with high trans-fat levels were found to have three times the risk of developing CHD.

“An increased level of trans fat in the blood inevitably leads to higher chances of coronary disease,” said Qi Sun, a lead author of the study and a graduate assistant at HSPH.

Frank M. Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at HSPH, said he was not surprised by the results of the study. “We need to get trans fats out of the food supply as fast possible,” Saks said, adding that the findings justify recent movements nationwide to eliminate trans fats from the American diet.

In December, New York became the first city in the nation to ban artificial trans fats, starting in July 2008.

The issue has also made its way to the floor of the Cambridge City Council on several occasions, including a November 2006 declaration encouraging restauranteurs to voluntarily eliminate trans fats from their menus.

Jon Olino, co-owner of “b.good,” a burger restaurant located in Harvard Square, says he is already on board.

“Trans fats are no better than poisons,” Olino said. “We owe it to our customers to understand what is in the food we serve. When we order our food materials, we explicitly request that it be fresh and trans fat-free.”

According to its Web site, Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) has taken several steps to minimize its use of trans fats, eliminating them from their frying oils in 2003 and converting to trans fat-free versions of several foods including margarine, cookies and peanut butter.

The study will appear in the April 10 issue of the American Heart Association’s journal, “Circulation.”