BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. There is ample evidence that the consumption of trans-fatty acids (TFAs) is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease. The major sources of TFAs are fast foods, margarine, bakery products, and packaged snacks. TFAs have also been associated with reduced levels of HDL-cholesterol (the "good" kind) and increased levels of LDL-cholesterol (the "bad" kind), triglycerides, and lipoprotein(a). It is believed that the unfavourable effects on cholesterol levels play a major role in the association between TFAs and coronary artery disease; however, it does not explain the association with diabetes.
Researchers at the Harvard Medical School now report that women with a high TFA intake may suffer from
a systemic inflammation which, in turn, has been linked to an increased risk of insulin resistance, diabetes,
coronary artery disease, and death from heart failure. The researchers measured the level of four
inflammation markers (soluble tumour necrosis factor alpha receptors 1 and 2, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and C-
reactive protein [CRP]) in 823 generally healthy female nurses. They compared the results with the reported
intake of TFAs and found that women whose daily TFA intake averaged 3.9 grams had an 11% higher blood
concentration of soluble tumour necrosis factors than did women with an average intake of only 1.8
grams/day. The level of IL-6 and CRP was not affected by TFA consumption except in overweight and
obese women where a correlation between higher TFA intakes and higher levels of IL-6 and CRP were
evident. The observed associations were not significantly altered after adjustment for smoking, physical
activity level, alcohol consumption, use of aspirin and NSAIDs, and intakes of saturated fats, n-6 and n-3
fatty acids, fiber and total energy. The researchers conclude that a high TFA intake is positively associated
with systemic inflammation in women.