Food and Behaviour Research

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High levels of industrially produced trans fat in popular fast foods

Stender S, Dyerberg J, Astrup A. (2006) N Engl J Med.  354(15): 1650-2. 

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This article has no abstract. The introductory paragraphs only are provided here. Full text is available online at the New England Journal of Medicine here

The daily intake of about 5 g of trans fat is associated with a 25 percent increase in the risk of ischemic heart disease. For this reason, it is recommended that the consumption of trans fat be as low as possible. We determined the content of industrially produced trans fatty acids in 43 servings of fast foods bought in 20 countries between November 2004 and September 2005. We and our colleagues decided which cities to include in the study on the basis of planned visits for other purposes. The foods (chicken nuggets and french fries) were purchased from McDonald's and KFC outlets.

The foods were homogenized, and the fatty acid content was analyzed by capillary gas chromatography according to a method accredited by the International Organization for Standardization. For comparison, the amounts of trans fatty acids in the french fries and chicken nuggets were expressed as the amounts in a serving size equal to that of a large serving of the food from McDonald's (171 g of french fries and 160 g of chicken).

The content of trans fatty acids varied from less than 1 g in Denmark and Germany to 10 g in NewYork (McDonald's) and 24 g in Hungary (KFC) Fifty percent of the 43 servings contained more than 5 g per serving — the amount of daily intake associated with a 25 percent increase in the risk of ischemic heart disease


This study revealed huge variation in the amount of 'trans fats' found in commercially produced 'fast food' meals purchased at different outlets in different countries.

Half of the 43 food samples analysed contained more than 5g per serving, although this amount even as a daily intake is linked with a 25% increase in the risk of the kind of cardiovascular disease most commonly linked with heart attack and stroke.

For more information on industrially-produced trans fats, and their links with poor mental as well as physical health, please see the downloadable FAB Factsheet: