American Heart Association Urges Hispanics to Pay Attention to the ‘Bad Fats,’...

American Heart Association Urges Hispanics to Pay Attention to the ‘Bad Fats,’ Trans and Saturated

New national campaign helps consumers ‘face the fats’ with clear guidance and interactive tools


Dallas, TX–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–August 17, 2007–As the nation moves to significantly reduce trans fat consumption, the American Heart Association is encouraging Hispanics – who are affected disproportionately by diet-related diseases such as heart disease- to minimize trans fat in their diet, while avoiding the unintended health consequence of defaulting to more saturated fat. This effort is part of an educational campaign from the American Heart Association called “Face the Fats.” Among the campaign’s top priorities is to encourage the replacement of trans fat-laden partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, animal fats, and tropical oils with healthier oils higher in unsaturated fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

“There has been an increase in the knowledge of the dangers associated with trans fat – but it’s equally important that we avoid replacing trans fat with saturated fat – these are both bad fats that raise LDLs, the bad cholesterol, and increase the risk of developing heart disease,” said Jose Martinez MD, spokesperson for the American Heart Association, and assistant professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Heart disease has taken an especially heavy toll on Hispanics. For example, diseases of the heart and stroke rank as the No.1 killer of Hispanics, claiming 28.2 percent of the more than 122,000 Hispanic deaths each year (1). Among Mexican-American adults, 31.6 percent of men and 34.4 percent of women have cardiovascular disease (CVD) (2). These diseases include heart disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, hardening of the arteries and other diseases of the circulatory system.

“Our bodies need some fat – but not as much fat as most people eat,” said Martinez. “The traditional Hispanic diet is heavy on foods high in bad fats such as saturated and trans fats. We also know that Hispanics are more likely to be overweight or obese than other groups and the higher rate of obesity leads to an increased risk of heart disease. The information provided by the American Heart Association through the ‘Face the Fats’ campaign can make a tremendous difference in our community. I believe that committed lifestyle changes, such as improving our diet and increasing physical activity levels, will help reduce the risks of heart disease among our people.”

Translation Needed: New Web Site Offers Personalized Help

On average, American adults consume approximately 2.2 percent of total calories from trans fat and four to five times as much saturated fat a day (3) – far more than the limits recommended by the American Heart Association. To help consumers better understand the recommended fat limits (4) and make smarter choices, the new campaign features a personalized tool, My Fats Translator, on, the campaign’s Web site. Users can input their age, gender, height, weight and level of physical activity into the easy-to-use calculator tool, and in return receive their personal daily calorie and fat consumption results and limits for total fat, saturated fat and trans fat. Users with a BMI above the normal range can get guidance on reducing their caloric intake and raising their level of physical activity.

The American Heart Association’s campaign helps break down complex fat information, focusing initially on the bad fats and healthier alternatives. It’s important for consumers to eat all fats in moderation, and eat foods with the “bad” fats as treats only – once in a while – rather than often.

— BAD fats: Trans and saturated fats

– Trans fat is found in many foods, but especially in commercial baked goods (doughnuts, pastries, muffins, cakes, pie crusts, biscuits and cookies), fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, breaded chicken nuggets and breaded fish), snack foods (crackers), and other foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, vegetable shortening, or hard margarine. (Soft margarines typically do not contain trans fat.)

– Saturated fat occurs naturally in many foods. The saturated fat we eat comes primarily from animal sources, including fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef tallow, lard and cream, butter, cheese, and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk. These foods also contain cholesterol. Some plant foods, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also contain saturated fat.

— BETTER fats: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats

– Major sources of monounsaturated fat include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocados, and many nuts and seeds.

– Major sources of polyunsaturated fat include a number of vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil), fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout) and some nuts and seeds.

– Calories from fats: Regardless of the type of fat, all fats have the same number of calories – every 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories.

– “Trans fat-free” doesn’t automatically mean “healthy”: Foods marked “trans fat-free” may still contain saturated fat, the other bad fat, and be high in calories.

Introducing the Bad Fats Brothers: Don’t Let Them Break Your Heart

As part of the campaign, the American Heart Association has introduced the nation to two characters — literally and figuratively — named Sat and Trans, the Bad Fats Brothers. The brothers have been created as a mnemonic to personify the bad fats and to give consumers a new way to look at and remember which fats are bad, why they’re bad and where they can be found. The two heartbreakers come to life in their debut webisode on their own virtual “edutainment” center, Consumers also will find “meet me” profiles of each brother; Sat is the older brother who’s been around and living large for quite a while and Trans is the younger charmer who’s a little sneakier. There also are examples of foods where Sat and Trans are found, as well as downloadable icons and wallpaper with the characters.

In 2006, the American Heart Association updated its Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations, advising consumers to limit their consumption of trans fat to no more than 1 percent of daily caloric intake. The association also encourages removal of trans fat from packaged goods and foods prepared in restaurants and bakeries, and supports related local regulatory efforts, provided that the availability of healthier alternatives and practical guidance to food service establishments are taken into consideration. The Association believes in a comprehensive phased-n approach to the replacement of industrially produced trans fat to ensure that a sufficient supply of healthier alternative oils and shortenings are available to restaurants and bakeries to prevent the substitution with unhealthy alternatives.

The American Heart Association’s trans fat education campaign is funded by a class action lawsuit settlement against McDonald’s. The American Heart Association has the sole judgment as to the most effective use of the funds. For more information on the campaign, call the American Heart Association at 1-800-AHA-USA1.

Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association today is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to reducing disability and death from diseases of the heart and stroke. These diseases, America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers, and all other cardiovascular diseases, claim about 870,000 lives a year. In fiscal year 2005-06, the association invested over $543 million in research, professional and public education, advocacy and community service programs to help all Americans live longer, healthier lives. To learn more, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit

(1) Source: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2007 Update.

(2) ibid. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2007 Update.

(3) Harnack L et al, Trends in the trans-fatty acid composition of the diet in a metropolitan area: The Minnesota Heart Survey, J Am Diet Assoc, 2003;103:1160-1166.

(4) The American Heart Association recommends total fat intake to be 25 to 35 percent of total daily calories and limiting daily intake of saturated fat to less than 7 percent and trans fat to less than 1 percent of total calories. As much as possible of the total fat intake should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Cholesterol intake should be limited to less than 300 mg a day.

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American Heart Association Urges Hispanics to Pay Attention to the ‘Bad Fats,’ Trans and Saturated