Trans Fat Levels Going Down at Fast Food Chains

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

A lot of us enjoy eating fast food. While it is, needless to say, not a terribly healthy approach to nutrition, there are certainly pleasures most people find from fast food. So, in the wake of all the bad news associated with this industry, let’s shine a light on some positive developments for a moment.

Five major chains have significantly decreased trans fats in the oils they use to cook food, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota. The new stats suggest that fast food companies may have been responsive to health concerns voiced by the public.

Certainly the industry is starting to shift, with much attention now paid to providing nutritional information for their various menu items. The lowering of trans fats means that we might watch for shifts in the industry that happen in response to current nutrition concerns, including high salt content and what type of energy fast food provides the human body.

With any luck, it could be the start of the road to healthier fast food. That would be a defining transformation to help fight the epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes that are sweeping across the United States.

Researchers used a database that catalogues the nutritional values of more than 18,000 foods in the study. They looked at trans fat and saturated fat levels in French fries from
McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, and Dairy Queen.

They found that three of the restaurants — McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s — significantly decreased the trans and saturated fatty acid composition of French fries between 1997 and 2008. For these three, saturated fats either went down or stayed level. While the remaining two restaurants didn’t show a decrease in trans fats in that time period, current nutritional information illustrates that the chains have decreased both trans and saturated fatty acid composition since 2008.

An important point is that the companies haven’t raised saturated fat levels to replace the trans fats. Both are unhealthy fats and by far the biggest contributors to obesity. The news, on whole, is very relevant to the nation’s overall health because the average citizen gets about 10% of his or her calories from fast food. Clearly, eating fast food only in moderation is the best approach, as they will always be higher than needed in calories and salt.

Over the past 10 years, trans fats began receiving a great deal of negative attention. Research demonstrated that they can elevate the risk of heart disease by increasing “bad” LDL cholesterol and decreasing “good” HDL cholesterol levels.