Americans' smarter about fats

by Bryan Salvage
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DALLAS ― Consumer awareness of “bad” fats, trans fatty acids and saturated fats, is at an all-time high, but consumers still need to improve what they eat, according to a new American Heart Association (A.H.A.) survey. Most Americans know what ― but not where ― the bad fats are.

The survey shows that while 92% of consumers are aware of trans fat ― a significant jump from 84% in 2006 ― only 21% may name three food sources of trans fat on their own. And while 93% of consumers are aware of saturated fat, only 30% may name three food sources of saturated fat on their own.

There is, however, good news. Awareness of the link between fats identified as bad by the A.H.A. and increased heart disease risk is up from 63% in 2006 to 73% in 2007 for trans fat, and from 73% to 77% for saturated fat.

"We’re encouraged to see that consumer awareness of saturated and trans fats is higher than ever and that more people understand the link between these fats and increased heart disease risk," said Dr. Robert H. Eckel, past president of the A.H.A., chair of its trans fat task force and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver Health Sciences Center. "But it’s clear that consumers need to know which foods contain what fats to minimize both saturated and trans fats and make heart-healthier food choices. Food labels help, but it goes far beyond that in knowing more about the food products without labels we purchase in the grocery or when eating out."

Consumers also are taking action more often to eat healthier, particularly as it relates to trans fat. When provided with health information in grocery stores or healthier options to order in restaurants, a small but growing number of Americans are more proactive when choosing what to eat, according to the survey.

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