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JOURNAL OF FOOD COMPOSITION AND ANALYSIS ARTICLE NO.

11, 137149 (1998)

FC980569

Trans Fatty Acids in Dietary Fats and Oils from 14 European Countries: The TRANSFAIR Study1
A. Aro,*,2 J. Van Amelsvoort, W. Becker, M.-A. van Erp-Baart, A. Kafatos, T. Leth, and G. van Poppel,3
*National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland; Unilever Research Laboratory, Vlaardingen, The Netherlands; National Food Administration, Uppsala, Sweden; TNO Nutrition and Food Research, Post Ofce Box 360, 3700 AJ, Zeist, The Netherlands; Medicine and Nutrition Clinic, University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece; and National Food Agency, Sborg, Denmark Received July 3, 1997, and in revised form January 21, 1998 The fatty acid composition of dietary fats and oils from 14 European countries was analyzed with particular emphasis on isomeric trans fatty acids. The proportion of trans fatty acids in typical soft margarines and low-fat spreads ranged between 0.1 and 17% of total fatty acids and that of cis-unsaturated fatty acids between 55 and 81%. Hard household margarines and industrial fats for cooking and baking (shortenings) had slightly higher proportions of trans fatty acids and highest amounts, up to 50%, were found in fats for deep frying. Vegetable oils contained only small amounts of trans fatty acids, usually less than 1%. Isomers of C18:1 comprised up to 94% of the trans fatty acids in hardened vegetable oils and 52 68% in butter, whereas hardened sh oils showed a more even distribution of trans monoenoic fatty acids between C16:1 and C22:1, and C18:1 isomers contributed by 28 42% to total trans fatty acids. Fat spreads with very low content ( 1%) of trans fatty acids were found in all but one of the countries, and a general tendency to products lower in trans fatty acids was observed in most countries for soft margarines and low-fat spreads but not for industrial fats and fat products for cooking and frying. The fatty acid composition of the spreads indicated that both C1216 saturated fatty acids and cis-unsaturated fatty acids had been used to replace trans fatty acids in the low-trans fatty acid products in the different countries but the use of increased amounts of stearic acid was very limited. 1998 Academic Press

INTRODUCTION Fat spreads and fats used for cooking, baking, and frying are the main sources of isomeric trans fatty acids in the diet. Highest amounts of trans fatty acids are generally found in fats that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable or sh oils, whereas the amounts are smaller in butter and other fats from ruminants and quite low in unprocessed vegetable oils (Precht and Molkentin, 1995). Margarines and other spreads have been extensively analyzed (Akesson et al., 1981; Beare-Rogers et al., 1979; Carpenter et al., 1973; Croon, 1987; Demmelmair et al., 1996; Druckrey et al., 1985; Enig et al., 1983, 1984; Heckers et al., 1978; Kafatos et al., 1994; Katan et al., 1984; Kochhar and Matsui, 1984; Lake et al., 1996; Lercker et al., 1987; deMan et al., 1991; Marchand et al., 1982; Molkentin and Precht, 1995; Ottenstein et al., 1977; Ovesen et al., 1996; Parodi, 1976; Perkins et al., 1977; Pfalzgraf et al., 1993; Renner and Yoon, 1982a,b; Slover et al., 1985; Smith et al., 1978; Weihrauch et al., 1977; Wolff and Sebedio, 1991) but few reports are
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This paper was prepared by the Authors on behalf of the TRANSFAIR study group (see Appendix 2). Working at TNO as a Visiting Scientist for the Academy of Finland. 3 To whom correspondence and reprint requests should be addressed. 137 0889-1575/98 $25.00
Copyright 1998 by Academic Press All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.

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available on the composition of shortenings, cooking and frying fats (Enig et al., 1983; Heckers et al., 1978; Molkentin and Precht, 1995; Ovesen et al., 1996; Pfalzgraf et al., 1993), particularly of those used by the food industry for bakery products, deep-fried foods, etc. Ever since the unfavorable effects of dietary trans fatty acids on serum lipoproteins were conrmed (Katan et al., 1995) and their possible associations with risk of coronary heart disease were suggested (Willett and Ascherio, 1994) there has been a tendency to reduce the amounts of trans fatty acids in margarines, particularly in the European countries (Mickels and Sacks, 1995; Taylor, 1995). In Denmark it was recommended to reduce the proportion of trans fatty acids to less than 5% of fatty acids in retail margarines (Stender et al., 1995). Substitution of stearic acid for trans fatty acids has been recommended (Grundy, 1990; Katan, 1995), but except for Denmark (Ovesen et al., 1996), there are no follow-up data which would indicate how the reduction of trans fatty acids has affected the fatty acid composition of margarines and other dietary fats. In the European multicenter TRANSFAIR Study comprising 14 countries, samples of foods contributing to 95% of total fat intake were collected within a period of 1 year in 19951996 and analyzed centrally (van Poppel et al., 1997). In this paper the fatty acid compositions of various dietary fats are reported, indicating the proportions of trans fatty acids and saturated (SFA) and cis-unsaturated fatty acids of total fatty acids. MATERIALS AND METHODS Sampling of Foods4 The participating countries were Belgium (BEL), Denmark (DEN), Finland (FIN), France (FRA), Germany (GER), Greece (GRE), Iceland (ICE), Italy (ITA), The Netherlands (NET), Norway (NOR), Portugal (POR), Spain (SPA), Sweden (SWE), and the United Kingdom (UKI). Lists of foods contributing to 95% of total fat intake were prepared in each country based on data from recent nutrition surveys. For practical reasons the number of foods was reduced to 100 or less in each country by selection among foods with similar fat composition and by the production of aggregates of different brands of similar foods, based on existing information on market shares, if available. The foods were sampled during 1 year in 19951996, homogenized, frozen at 20C, and transported to The Netherlands for centralized analysis (van Poppel et al., 1997). Analytical Methods The analytical methods are described in detail elsewhere (van Poppel et al., 1997). Briey, the fats were extracted, the total fat content was determined, and the fatty acid methyl esters were separated by capillary gas chromatography. The fatty acids were identied by comparison with standards. A total of 44 fatty acids or groups of fatty acids with 8 to 26 carbon atoms were identied including 7 trans isomers. The C18:1 trans fatty acids, the C18:2 trans isomers, and the C18:3 trans C20:1 trans fatty acids were calculated as groups because of incomplete separation between individual fatty acid isomers.
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Analyses of all (1299) TRANSFAIR samples are available on oppy disk (200 ECUs).

TRANS FATTY ACIDS IN DIETARY FATS AND OILS FROM EUROPE TABLE 1 The Fatty Acid Composition (Percentage of Methyl Esters) of Soft Table Margarines in the Different Countries

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RESULTS The fatty acid compositions of margarines, low-fat spreads, and fats for frying and for cooking and baking from the participating countries are given in Tables 1 4. A typical or average product is given for each country. This is either the market leader for the country or an aggregate based on market shares. For margarines and low-fat spreads the product with the lowest and the highest proportion of total trans fatty acids in each country is included as well.

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The Fatty Acid Composition (Percentage of Methyl Esters) of Low-Fat Spreads in the Different Countries

Variable amounts of trans fatty acids were found in the margarines and low-fat spreads of different countries (Table 1). The typical soft table margarines of France, The Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden contained very low amounts of trans fatty acids, and in Denmark and Finland aggregates of products based on market shares showed relatively low proportions of trans fatty acids, too. Iceland and Norway showed a totally different pattern with the most popular brands being high in trans fatty acids, and the aggregate of soft margarines from the UK included sh-derived trans isomers. Margarines that were virtually free of trans fatty acids were found in all countries except for Norway. In Sweden

TRANS FATTY ACIDS IN DIETARY FATS AND OILS FROM EUROPE TABLE 3 The Fatty Acid Composition (Percentage of Methyl Esters) of Hard Household Margarines in the Different Countries

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all soft margarines contained only very small amounts of trans fatty acids. The low-fat spreads showed corresponding differences between the countries (Table 2). The margarines with low trans fatty acid content showed several differences in their fatty acid composition. The Swedish margarines were highest in SFA, particularly in C12-16:0 fatty acids. On the other hand the Dutch and Belgian margarines were particularly low in SFA and high in cis-unsaturates. Also in Greece, Portugal, Spain, and the UK low-trans fatty acid margarines with an increased share of cis-unsaturates were found. In France low-trans fatty acid products had been produced both by increasing C12-16 saturated fatty acids and by increasing cis-unsaturates. In Germany the most popular

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ARO ET AL. TABLE 4 The Fatty Acid Composition (Percentage of Methyl Esters) of Butter and Fats for Frying, Cooking, and Baking in the Different Countries

margarine was characterized by a high contribution of stearic acid and cis-unsaturated fatty acids but in the low-trans fatty acid product these were partially replaced with C12-16 SFA. The Danish and the Finnish margarines were rather similar and trans fatty acids had been largely replaced by both C12-16 SFA and unsaturated fatty acids. In about one-half of the countries the margarine that was lowest in trans fatty acids contained more

TRANS FATTY ACIDS IN DIETARY FATS AND OILS FROM EUROPE TABLE 5 The Fatty Acid Composition (Percentage of Methyl Esters) of Selected Fats for Frying and Cooking in the Different Countries

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SFA than the average product, and this was not due to differences in stearic acid (Tables 1 and 2). Among household hard margarines the Icelandic and Norwegian brands again differed from the others in containing high proportions of trans fatty acids and lower proportions of cis-unsaturates (Table 3). Hard margarines with low and high amounts of trans fatty acids were found in most countries, however. Most of the typical frying fats contained high amounts of trans fatty acids (Table 4). The fat products with highest proportions of trans fatty acids were found within this group of foods. The typical French product was an exception. It was an extremely highly saturated coconut-based product that contained negligible amounts of both cis- and trans-unsaturated fatty acids. The partially hydrogenated vegetable fats contained mainly C18:1 trans fatty acids, little or no other monoenoic trans isomers, and some C18:2 trans fatty acids. Products containing hydrogenated sh oil were characterized by a more even distribution between C16:1, C18:1, C20:1, and C22:1 trans isomers, whereas butter contained mainly C18:1 trans fatty acids with smaller proportions of both C16:1 and C18:2 isomers (Table 5). The partially hydrogenated sh oils contained also numerous long-chain cis- and trans-isomers that could not be identied and were therefore included in the group of unidentied fatty acids. Only minor amounts of trans fatty acids were found in the vegetable oils but the composition of trans isomers differed between the oils (Table 6). Olive oil, both virgin and rened types, contained practically no trans fatty acids. Rened sunower and soybean oils contained generally more C18:2 trans isomers than C18:1 trans fatty acids. Corn oil samples from Iceland and Portugal contained more than 1% of C18:2 trans

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The Fatty Acid Composition (Percentage of Methyl Esters) of Vegetable Oils in the Different Countries

isomers but not the corn oil from France and Germany. C18:3 trans isomers were found in those oil samples that contained soybean oil or rapeseed oil. Spanish oils that had been reutilized for deep frying of beef or sh contained slightly more trans isomers than unused rened oils (Table 7). Mainly C18:2 trans fatty acids were increased, and the highest proportion (0.89%) was found in sunower oil that had been repeatedly used at restaurants until discarded.

TRANS FATTY ACIDS IN DIETARY FATS AND OILS FROM EUROPE TABLE 7 The Fatty Acid Composition (Percentage of Methyl Esters) of Mixed and Reutilized Oils in the Different Countries

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DISCUSSION The sampling in each country was based on foods contributing to 95% of total fat intake but the nal selection was done according to the local method of calculating intakes, since the main objective of the sampling procedure was to allow the calculation of trans fatty acid intake in the participating countries, to be reported separately. Soft margarines and low-fat spreads were sampled in all countries. In most of them several individual brands were sampled, whereas in others aggregates of products were prepared based on market shares. Industrial fats and shortenings for cooking and baking and fats for deep frying were analyzed separately in many countries but in others like Denmark, Italy, Spain, and Sweden the contributions of these fat products were estimated from the analysis of processed foods. Therefore the products that are included into the tables are not exactly comparable in all aspects but they still give an indication of the typical fat products that are used and the ranges of fatty acid compositions in the different countries. The results indicate that the proportion of trans fatty acids in soft margarines has been reduced by several means. Trans fatty acids were replaced by C12-16 SFA from palm oil or coconut oil but it was also possible to increase the proportion of cis-unsaturated fatty acids in the products. Examples of both these ways to produce low-trans fatty acid fat

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spreads were found among the products of the different countries. The low-trans fatty acid margarines of France and Sweden (Table 1) contained particularly high proportions of lauric acid (C12:0), suggesting the use of coconut oil. In several countries like Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the UK, margarines with low amounts of trans fatty acids had been produced by increasing the proportion of cis-unsaturated fatty acids. The German margarines were highest in stearic acid but otherwise there was no clear evidence of specic attempts to increase the proportion of stearic acid in the products. Information from the food industry and from certain studies indicated that the proportion of trans fatty acids in margarines and low-fat spreads had been reduced in many countries during the year preceding the sampling in 19951996. This holds for Denmark (Ovesen et al., 1996), Finland, France (Bayard et al., 1995), and Sweden. In the Netherlands and Norway similar development was evident during or soon after the sampling. The changes were mainly voluntary but in Denmark the authorities had advised reduction in the trans fatty acid content of retail margarines and shortenings for industrial use (Stender et al., 1996). The changes in the fatty acid composition of margarines was monitored in Denmark and the results indicated that trans fatty acids were only partially replaced by SFA, partially by cis-unsaturates (Ovesen et al., 1996). The development in Sweden probably had been different since all soft table margarines contained very small amounts of trans fatty acids but particularly high amounts of SFA. In Finland domestic margarines that were sampled according to market shares were moderately low in trans fatty acids but recently marketed imported margarines that were not included in the market shares and were therefore sampled separately contained considerably higher amounts of trans fatty acids. It seems apparent that in some countries the old margarines have been exported at the same time as new low-trans fatty acid margarines have been developed. Comparison with earlier reports on the trans fatty acid content of margarines also indicated a clear reduction for Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Sweden (Croon, 1987; Bayard et al., 1995; Druckrey et al., 1985; Heckers et al., 1978; Katan et al., 1984; Pfalzgraf et al., 1993; Wolff et al., 1991). In accordance with previous ndings (Carpenter et al., 1976; Kochhar and Matsui, 1984; Pfalzgraf et al., 1993), the vegetable oils contained very small amounts of trans fatty acids, less than 1% of fatty acids, with the exception of two corn oil samples from Iceland and Portugal. Since corn oil from France and Germany contained much lower amounts of trans isomers the difference probably depended on the processing of the oils. Olive oil, both unrened and rened, was particularly low in trans fatty acids. The rened sunower oil and soybean oil products contained more C18:2 trans than C18:1 trans. Reutilization of oils may increase the trans fatty acid content of oils due to exchange of fatty acids between the fried food and the oil and by the frying process itself (Leth, 1987; Sebedio et al., 1990). Reutilized oils studied in Spain contained somewhat more trans isomers than the native oils. The effect may be partly due to exchange of fatty acids between the fried foods and the oils, seen as an increase in C18:1 trans in the oil used for beef, but the increase in the proportion of C18:2 trans isomers probably reected the effect of reutilization. This was most marked in the discarded sunower oil that had been reutilized several times. Soybean oil and rapeseed oil and rapeseed oil-containing mixtures from Finland and Sweden contained C18:3 trans fatty acids which presumably were formed from alpha-linolenic acid during processing. Overall the differences between the different oils were rather small and mainly of theoretical interest. The spectrum of trans isomers in the fats indicated with some certainty the origin of the

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fat. Hardened sh oils could be distinguished from hardened vegetable oils and ruminant fats by looking at the distribution of trans monoenoic fatty acids with 16 to 22 carbon atoms. A fatty acid pattern typical for hardened sh oil (Ojanpera, 1978) could be identied in several cooking and frying fats from Iceland and Norway, in the aggregate of soft margarines from the UK and, occasionally, in other countries, and it was characteristic of numerous bakery products from several countries (van Erp-Baart et al., 1997). Hardened vegetable oils were more difcult to distinguish from dairy fat but the amount of C16:1 trans fatty acids was useful in many occasions. Roughly equal proportions of C16:1 and C18:2 trans fatty acids in addition to C18:1 trans were typical for ruminant fats, whereas most hardened vegetable oils contained mainly C18:1 trans, little or no C16:1 trans, and variable amounts of C18:2 trans fatty acids. Selected examples of fats from different origin (Table 5) showed the typical features of their declared ingredients. Frying fats and shortenings contained the highest amounts of trans isomers in the present study. We could not nd clear indications of a similar decline in the proportion of trans fatty acids that was evident for soft margarines and spreads. This is in agreement with the ndings of Bayard et al., (1995) from France. The highest amount of trans isomers, 50% of all fatty acids, was measured in a Dutch frying fat composed of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Bayard et al., (1995) found a brand of shortening with 62.5% trans fatty acids in their study in France but this product was not included in the samples of our study or its composition had been changed. In summary, a wide range of trans fatty acids was found in the European fat products. Soft tub margarines containing low amounts of trans fatty acids were available in practically all the countries. A tendency to products lower in isomeric trans fatty acids has been evident in most countries for soft margarines and low-fat spreads but not for industrial fats and fats for frying and cooking. In the different low-trans fatty acid products C12-16 saturated fatty acids and cis-unsaturated fatty acids or both had been used to replace trans fatty acids, but apparently stearic acid had not been used to any appreciable extent for that purpose. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The TRANSFAIR study is a concerted action supported by the Commission of the European Communities (AIR 2421). Centralized chemical analyses were supported by the industrial participants listed in Appendix 2 of Van Poppel et al. (this issue). The studies in each country were supported by national funds. We thank the participants listed in Appendix 2 of Van Poppel et al. (this issue) and numerous other coworkers that are not mentioned for their valuable contributions to this project.

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