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Eastern Europe nations must cut trans fat

Eastern European nations, including Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic, are the worst in the world for serving unhealthy meals in fast-food outlets.

Health expert Steen Stender, a Danish professor from a university research group, tells the 15th European Congress on Obesity that Eastern European countries must cut the use of trans fat - the „silent killer” - from fast food. According to a global survey by Stender, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Poland serve foods at outlets with the highest levels of trans fat. He suggests a switch from trans fat to the less harmful saturated fat at franchise giants such as McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Hungary is among the worst fast-food serving countries. Stender says he feels pity because Hungary already has a high death toll when it comes to heart disease. Trans fat, or trans fatty acids (TFA), are fats found in foods such as vegetable shortening, some margarines, and many processed foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fat, like saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, raises the LDL (or „bad”) cholesterol that increases your risk for heart disease, according to the FDA. „It is recommended that the consumption of trans fat be as low as possible,” write Stender and colleagues.

Stender's team writes that „the content of trans fatty acids varied from less than 1 gram in Denmark and Germany, to 10 grams in New York (McDonald's) and 24 grams in Hungary (KFC).” Those numbers combine trans fat content for the chicken nuggets and french fries. For the McDonald's items, the top three locations for trans fat content were New York, Peru, and Atlanta. The results for McDonald's restaurants didn't include other US cities. For the KFC foods, the top three locations for trans fat content were Hungary, Poland, and Peru, the study shows.

The only US location on the list - New York - ranked eighth. „The cooking oil used for French fries in McDonald's outlets in the US and Peru contained 23% and 24% trans fatty acids, respectively, whereas the oils used for French fries in many European countries contained only about 10% trans fatty acids, with some countries as low as 5% (Spain) and 1% (Denmark),” the researchers wrote. What about french fries in France? Trans fat content was in the middle of the range (15% for McDonald's fries and 8% for KFC fries).

The study doesn't cover every restaurant in every location. The findings may not apply in other cities or restaurants. The study didn't do a head-to-head comparison of McDonald's and KFC foods. (ctv.ca, webmd.com)