Variability in the Trans Fatty Acid Content of Foods within a Food Category: Implications for Estimation of Dietary Trans Fatty Acid Intakes

Sheila M. Innis, Timothy J. Green, Thomas K. Halsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Currently, the published information on trans fatty acid composition of foods is incomplete and of questionable accuracy. Detailed fatty acid analysis of over 200 foods was undertaken for the purpose of determining the variability in trans fatty acid content among foods within a product category, and the significance of this variability to the estimation of trans fatty acids intakes from analysis of dietary intake data. Methods: The analysis of food fatty acids used gas-liquid chromatography with 100 m capillary columns and standardized methodologies for food sampling, fat extraction, separation and quantification of trans fatty acid isomers. For the purposes of this report, trans refers to all non-naturally occurring isomers including trans, cis-trans, geometric and positional isomers. Results: The results show that the amount of trans fatty acids varies considerably among foods within a category, reflecting differences in the fats and oils used in the manufacturing or preparation process. For example, the range of trans fatty acids in 17 brands of crackers was 23 to 51% total fatty acids, representing differences of from 1 to 13 g trans fatty acids per 100 g cracker. The large errors that may arise in estimates of the trans fatty acid intake of an individual are illustrated by analyses of the potential trans fatty acid intake in a sample diet, for each food as calculated using the minimum and maximum values for trans fatty acids within a given category. The results of these analyses show estimates of trans fatty acid intake from a low of 1.4 to 25.4 g a day for the same diet. Conclusion: This study shows that the wide variability in trans fatty acid content of different foods may result in large errors in the estimation of trans fatty acid intake of individuals and, potentially, groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-260
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Jun 1999


  • Canadian
  • Diet methodology
  • Food composition
  • Trans fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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