Trans fats have been public enemy number one since the start of the new millennium as evidence of their negative impacts on heart health began piling up. Now, researchers at the NUTRISS Centre in Nutrition, Health and Society of the Institut sur la nutrition et les aliments fonctionnels at Université Laval have shown that not all trans fats are created equal. Unlike industrially produced trans fatty acids, naturally occurring trans fats like the ones found in beef and dairy do not increase cardiovascular risk factors since it’s practically impossible to consume enough to harm your health.   

The finding is groundbreaking because foods that naturally contain trans fats happen to be key sources of other essential nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D, and eliminating them could trigger undesirable side effects.

As early as 2018, the World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Heart Association relied on the research to recommend the removal of industrial trans fats from foods but not naturally occurring ones. Health Canada went one step further by banning the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are a key source of industrial trans fatty acids.

Led by Benoît Lamarche, the NUTRISS research team confirmed the negative effects of the excessive consumption of industrially produced trans fats. Hidden in pastries, French fries and donuts until very recently, they increase bad cholesterol levels and decrease good cholesterol, creating an accumulation of fat deposits that can clog blood vessels and increase a person’s risk of heart attack. In the early 2000s, industrial trans fats were responsible for some 100,000 deaths per year in the US and 14,000 in Canada.

The elimination of industrial trans fats from Canadians’ diets thanks to research conducted at the NUTRISS Centre will help maintain cardiovascular health across the country and save nearly $19 billion in health costs brought about by heart disease every year.