The Skinny on Trans Fats

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transfat4Read any health report in recent years and the topic of trans fats (also referred to as “trans fatty acids”) frequently comes up. Trans fats or hydrogenated fats are created by a process of hydrogenation that is very bad for our health because (like saturated fat) they raise cholesterol levels. Trans fats, which have been linked to heart disease, are found in many products you buy at the supermarket. Some cereals, candies, baked goods, snack foods, frozen foods, salad dressings, and other processed foods have trans fats added to them.

We all know that eating fast food is a daily habit for some American households. In addition, snack foods have replaced fresh foods as staples and meals are all too frequently followed by desserts. Many Americans know their diets could be improved, but do they realize the amount of unhealthy trans fats in the foods that they eat?transfat1

In this month’s ‘Internet Challenge’, we will learn about trans fats and see how Americans are responding to this important health issue.

Let’s begin!

Our first stop is Learning About Fats at the Kidshealth site. You can find it by pointing your Web browser to

transfat3Read through the facts about fats and begin answering the following questions.

1.  Fats are essential for brain and nervous system development in babies and toddlers.

a. True

b. False

2.  Name the three types of fats.





3.  Which fat, found in meat and dairy products, can lead to raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease?

a. unsaturated fatNutritional label with focus on fats.

b. saturated fat

c. trans fat


4.  Which fat is found in "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils?

a. unsaturated fat

b. saturated fat

c. trans fat


5.  Which fat is considered the healthiest of the three fats?

a. unsaturated fat

b. saturated fat

c. trans fat


6.  Name two foods that are good sources of unsaturated fats.



Super start!

Now let’s visit the FDA’s Trans Fat Web site found at

transfat6There are some articles to read though. Continue answering the questions.

7.  Click Nutrition Facts Label: 20 and Counting and read the information. Explain why the FDA requires food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fats on food labels.





8.  Imagine that you work at a cookie manufacturing company. Why would your company want or need to use trans fats in the cookies?




9.  When putting a spread on toast, which is a healthier choice? Butter or stick margarine? Explain.




10.  In the future, would you choose or avoid eating a certain cookie or potato chip if it contained trans fats? Explain.





Next, let’s travel to Ban Trans Fats: The Campaign to Ban Partially Hydrogenated Oils located at Find out what some cities are doing about trans fats, and then continue answering the questions.

11.  New York City announced its proposal to ban trans fats. Choose the word below that is an antonym for proposal.

a. suggestion

b. withdrawal

c. idea

d. motion


12. The trans fats ban proposal includes two initiatives. Briefly describe each initiative.




13.  Many criticisms have been received about this proposal. Do you agree with any of the criticisms? Explain





14.  New York City is the only city in the United States to suggest such a proposal.

a. True

b. False


15. In your opinion, should a city’s health department have the authority to make mandates about trans fats? Explain.





Extension Activity - Choose one or do them all!

Although zero trans fat intake is ideal, the American Heart Association recommends that one’s daily intake of trans fats be limited to 1 percent of total calories. This is roughly 2.5 grams of trans fats a day. How does your intake measure up? Would you believe that one donut contains 3 grams of trans fats?

What about microwave popcorn? Believe it or not, some varieties contain over 8 grams of trans fats. Research ten of your favorite, trans fat-laden foods found at the grocery store and fast food restaurants. Create a poster board decorated with the ten foods along with trans fat grams amount. (The trans fat information can be found on food labels or online. If you research particular Web sites, be sure to have teacher approval and supervision.) In addition, brainstorm and come up with a healthier alternative to each of the ten foods. After you’re done, present your poster board to your teacher and classmates.

Talk about it!


The Web sites in this online activity briefly described the relationship between trans fats and coronary heart disease (CHD). Individually research (books, magazines, newspapers or

Web sites, with teacher supervision) how trans fats contribute to this deadly disease. Once you have read about the disease and viewed diagrams of the heart, create a slogan for a t-shirt, poster or bumper sticker to make adults aware of the ills of trans fats. Design another one for children. Talk about your creations with your teacher and classmates.

How have food producing companies responded to the trans fat issue? With teacher supervision, visit various food producing companies. Web sites, such as Birds Eye, Frito-

Lay, General Mills, Gerber, Heinz, Hershey, Kellogg, Kraft, Nestle, Oscar Mayer and Pepperidge Farm and explore each one for any information about trans fats. Do these companies mention trans fats in their food products? If so, how they are trying to eliminate trans fats? How are they changing their advertising towards the public? Examine at least five company Web sites and report on how they are addressing the trans fats issue. Share your research findings with your teacher and classmates. Talk about it!


Congratulations! You have done an outstanding job completing this month’s Internet Challenge.


Answers to November’s Internet Challenge

1. A

2. The three types of fats are unsaturated, saturated and trans fats.

3. B

4. C

5. A

6. Students’ answers will vary. The food sources that contain unsaturated fats include certain oils such as olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil. Some fish varieties like albacore tuna and salmon also contain the unsaturated fats.

7. The FDA requires trans fats to be listed on the label in order to help people know the fat content of the food. Trans fats raise cholesterol levels, which increase the risk of coronary heart disease. By giving these facts to the public, people can make better heart healthy decisions.

8. Adding trans fats to foods increases their shelf life and flavor stability.

9. Butter is the healthier choice since it does not contain trans fats.

10. Students’ answers will vary.

11. B

12. The first initiative proposal gives restaurants six months to switch to oils, margarines and shortening that have less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. After eighteen months, all other food items will need to contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Packaged food items still in the manufacturer’s original packaging when served would be exempt. The second initiative will require restaurants that already make calorie content publicly available to also post it on their menus and menu boards beginning March 1, 2007.

13. Students’ answers will vary.

14. B

15. Students’ answers will vary.


Extension Activities – Students’ own work.

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