Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular risk

J Nutr Health Aging. 2001;5(3):184-7.


Trans fatty acids are found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, in meats, and in dairy products. Their effect on blood cholesterol concentrations was examined decades ago, but recently there has been renewed interest in understanding how trans fatty acids affect blood lipids and lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations. Current advice to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk includes decreasing the consumption of saturated and total fat to help manage blood cholesterol concentrations. Saturated fat contributes significantly to total fat intake and markedly raises blood cholesterol concentrations. Trans fatty acids, which are consumed in much smaller quantities, have been shown to be modestly hypercholesterolemic in studies that have substituted hydrogenated vegetable oils for unhydrogenated oils. In contrast, when partially hydrogenated vegetable oils containing trans fatty acids are substituted for cholesterol-raising saturated fats, blood cholesterol levels are reduced. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are used in place of saturated fat in many food products. These foods can help consumers lower their saturated fat intake to achieve dietary recommendations. The following review critically examines the role of hydrogenated fats in the food supply, the metabolism of trans fatty acids, and the scientific literature surrounding the effects of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and trans fatty acids on blood cholesterol concentrations and cardiovascular disease risk.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / chemistry*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogenation
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Cholesterol