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Research on Healthy Fats

Industrial trans fats, such as margarine, have been used as low-cost alternatives for butter and other animal fats, but are being phased out of the food supply due to their negative effects on blood cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. That will leave fats from ruminant animals, including cattle, sheep, and goats, as the major source of trans fats in the food supply in Canada. Health Canada estimated that 3,000 heart attack related deaths could be prevented, and up to $450 million saved annually in health-care costs and workforce productivity losses if increased restrictions on trans fats were implemented in Canada. Scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are collaborating with academic colleagues to discover ways to increase desirable trans fatty acids by researching animal diets.

Contrary to the industrial trans fats, the ruminants trans fatty acids may have positive roles in fighting diseases from cancer to cardiovascular disease. The main difference between desirable and undesirable trans fats depends on the fatty acid chain, the types of bonds and their positions. The research team found that feeding high quality forage in combination with flaxseed can increase desirable, while decreasing undesirable, trans fatty acids. Getting high levels of desirable trans fatty acids is dependant on both the diet and how it is fed to the animals.

Scientists have discovered that feeding flaxseed before high quality hay can substantially increase beneficial trans fatty acids. There are a number of possible reasons for the increase and the team is currently undertaking more research to determine the outcome under different conditions. This research will help producers increase healthy fats, which will benefit all Canadians.

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