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 Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani
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 Health experts want trans fat levels on food labels

28/706 LONDON (Reuters) - Food labels should list the amount of trans fat along with cholesterol and saturated fat so consumers can make healthier choices to reduce their risk of heart disease, British public health experts said on Friday.

Trans fat, which is found in some margarines, fast food, biscuits, cakes and pastry, increases the shelf life of foods.

But it also raises low density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, in the blood and cuts the amount of high density lipoprotein or good cholesterol.

Robert Clarke and Sarah Lewington, of the University of Oxford in England, believe Britain and other European countries should follow the example of the United States where the content of trans fat and cholesterol content is provided on food labels.

"If consumers knew what was in their food it would help them make more healthier food choices that could lower their LDL and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke," Clarke said in an interview.

"There should be mandatory information about the content of the food we eat," he added.

Consumers are advised to eat a healthy, balanced diet consisting of plenty of fruits and vegetables and to cut down on foods high in saturated and trans fat to reduce their odds of developing coronary heart disease.

The majority of trans fat is produced when liquid oils are made into solid fats such as shortening and hard margarine. Saturated fats also raise LDL and are important in determining blood cholesterol levels.

Meat products, butter and lard, hard cheese, cream, and coconut and palm oil are high in saturated fats.

In an editorial in the British Medical Journal Clarke and Lewington said Denmark introduced legislation in 2004 that virtually eliminated trans fat and had no effect on the quality, cost or availability of foods.

"The UK Food Standards Agency is currently pressing for revision of the European directive that governs the content and format of nutrition labels on foods marketed in the United Kingdom and other European countries, so that these fats are labelled," they added.

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