Projects / Programmes source: ARRS

The content of trans fats in foods and population intakes - public health implications

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
3.08.00  Medical sciences  Public health (occupational safety)   

Code Science Field
B420  Biomedical sciences  Nutrition 

Code Science Field
3.03  Medical and Health Sciences  Health sciences 
trans fats, trans fatty acids, dietary intake, food policy
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (24)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publications
1.  07028  PhD Helena Abramovič  Plant production  Researcher  2016 - 2019  250 
2.  33338  PhD Evgen Benedik  Human reproduction  Researcher  2016 - 2019  545 
3.  27975  PhD Urška Blaznik  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2016 - 2019  174 
4.  50854  PhD Tome Eftimov  Computer science and informatics  Researcher  2018 - 2019  202 
5.  05373  PhD Ivan Eržen  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2016 - 2019  649 
6.  15312  PhD Nataša Fidler Mis  Human reproduction  Researcher  2016 - 2019  415 
7.  11685  PhD Zlatko Fras  Cardiovascular system  Researcher  2016 - 2019  758 
8.  24228  PhD Matej Gregorič  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2016 - 2019  209 
9.  18642  PhD Cirila Hlastan Ribič  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2016 - 2018  245 
10.  39476  Maša Hribar  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2017 - 2019  46 
11.  10824  PhD Barbara Koroušić Seljak  Computer science and informatics  Researcher  2016 - 2019  314 
12.  00950  PhD Ivan Kreft  Plant production  Researcher  2016 - 2019  891 
13.  22463  PhD Anita Kušar  Plant production  Researcher  2016 - 2019  102 
14.  36048  PhD Živa Lavriša  Public health (occupational safety)  Junior researcher  2016 - 2019  42 
15.  37388  PhD Jana Lozar Krivec  Human reproduction  Technician  2016 - 2019  76 
16.  36493  PhD Krista Miklavec  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2016 - 2018  20 
17.  50408  PhD Urška Pivk Kupirovič  Interdisciplinary research  Researcher  2018 - 2019  23 
18.  24300  PhD Igor Pravst  Public health (occupational safety)  Principal Researcher  2016 - 2019  280 
19.  38037  Ajda Švab  Public health (occupational safety)  Technician  2016 - 2019 
20.  39008  Manca Velkavrh  Medical sciences  Technician  2016 - 2019 
21.  05733  PhD Rajko Vidrih  Plant production  Researcher  2016 - 2019  728 
22.  30891  PhD Vida Vukašinović  Computer science and informatics  Researcher  2016 - 2018  56 
23.  19640  PhD Emil Zlatić  Plant production  Researcher  2016 - 2019  151 
24.  24278  PhD Katja Žmitek  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2016 - 2019  157 
Organisations (5)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publications
1.  0106  Jožef Stefan Institute  Ljubljana  5051606000  84,970 
2.  0312  University Medical Centre Ljubljana  Ljubljana  5057272000  73,123 
3.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  64,100 
4.  3018  NUTRITION INSTITUTE  Ljubljana  3609081  452 
5.  3333  National Institut of Public Health  Ljubljana  6462642  17,010 
Trans fatty acids (TFAs) are a well-recognised risk factor in the development of cardiovascular diseases. They are not synthesised by the human body and not required in the diet. A number of other possible negative effects of a high intake of TFAs are also reported, including decreased birth weight and a negative effect on the developing brain in infancy. While naturally occurring TFAs can mostly be found in ruminant fats, most TFA intake is related to the consumption of industrial trans fat (I-TF), which is found in partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs). PHOs are very cheap semi-liquid or solid fats with attractive technological functions and therefore very attractive to the food industry. A very recent report reveals a substantial increase in the availability of TFAs in biscuits in the food supply in Slovenia. However, no other recent data are available about the availability of TFAs in the food supply or the intake by the population or different population groups. The project’s overall hypothesis is that, due to high consumers’ considerable exposure to TFAs, the use of I-TF in foods should be limited. The major objectives of this project are therefore to identify the main sources of TFAs in the food supply, and determine TFA intakes in both the general population and key population groups. A key scientific challenge covered by this project is also to develop a methodological toolbox which will support the identification of specific populations with higher TFA intakes, to improve understanding of their dietary and lifestyle habits, and associated health risks. To inform policymakers with evidence needed for future decisions, this project will also address different strategies for limiting TFA intake. To meet these objectives, the project will be organised in the following three work packages (WPs): In the first WP, we will select foods to be analysed and perform chemical analyses of them, and upgrade the Slovenian food composition database and the Open Platform for Clinical Nutrition (OPEN) with the resulting new food composition data. The selection of foods will be made using an innovative approach of weighting based on 12-month sales data for each product, assuring that the most commonly consumed products will be analysed. Fatty acid profiles will be determined using the derivatisation of lipids to fatty acid methyl esters, followed by gas chromatography. In the second WP, we will investigate dietary intake of TFAs in various population groups with different methodological approaches. In one of the tasks this will be done using food consumption data collected in the EU MENU Slovenia project. A separate task will focus on the problem of identifying high consumers where a new methodology will be developed based on data about the availability of specific food products to individual persons. While this project will exploit the use of such an innovative approach to identify individuals with high TFA intakes, such a methodology will support scientific progress in many other areas of public health and nutrition. This WP will also investigate TFA intake during pregnancy and lactation, and investigate correlations with TFA levels in human milk. In the third WP, we will quantify consumer awareness of the role of TFAs in human health, and their motivation and ability to process TFA-related food labelling information. To gain insights into country-to-country differences, the study will be conducted in Slovenia and the United Kingdom. The importance of various TFA-related food product attributes on consumer preferences will be exploited using a conjoint analysis. A cluster analysis will also be conducted to identify groups of individuals with similar preferences. This WP will also continuously evaluate the overall project results to assure timely information for key stakeholders and successful dissemination.
Significance for science
The project results will significantly improve progress in research in the areas of public health and nutrition. The innovative approach of using LP data to identify high consumers (T2.2) has the potential to impact research much more widely than just the assessment of TF intakes. Data available today from retailers would enable unprecedented insights into consumers’ exposure to all kinds of food constituents (including bioactive food ingredients and contaminants) and support risk assessments, but currently these data are mostly underexplored. To our knowledge, such a strategy has never been used in public health research. This project will build on collaboration between researchers, government and industry to change this. In addition, the project will provide important results about food composition (T1.2). We will establish not only the total TFA content in foods, but also contents of specific TFA isomers. Currently, comparable data on the TFA isomer distributions in various food matrices are not available and this is considerably limiting further research and the introduction of biomarkers of I-TF/TFA intake which would enable quantitative estimations of the TFA intake from natural and industrial sources (e.g. PHOs) from analytical data. Considering the latest review on the estimated TFA intake in the EU (Wollgast et al., 2014) and noting that representative data are currently only available for four member states, the results of our study will be very valuable not only locally, but also internationally. To ensure a maximum impact and enable the evaluation of various risk scenarios, the assessment of the dietary intake of TFA (T2.1) will be performed with both deterministic and probabilistic methodology. Given the high coronary mortality in Slovenia, particularly in the most deprived socioeconomic groups, the results will also provide new insights into the extent TFA plays a role in socioeconomic inequalities. Further, the project will provide results on exposure to TFA during lactation and early life (T2.3), and provide new insights into biomarkers of exposure to TFAs. A comparison with data we collected in 2000 (Štrekelj, 2009) will give us more information about any 10-year longitudinal change in exposure to TFAs. Finally, using sophisticated methodology in T3.1 we will quantify consumer awareness of the role of TFAs in human health, and their motivation and ability to process TFA-related food labelling information. The study will be conducted internationally on a large sample of subjects, providing important insights into consumer behaviour.
Significance for the country
Project will have direct impact for the society: Project’s relevance for society proven by the co-financing by the Government (Ministry of Health, 17.6%). The project’s objectives are in line with the Slovenian resolution on nutrition for health 2015–2025 (Ministry of Health of RS, 2015), Slovenian strategic resolution on the development of Slovenian agriculture and the food industry until 2020 – “Food for the future”, WHO recommendations and the EU’s ambition to establish a strategy for limiting TF content in foods. CVDs are responsible for 38% deaths in Slovenia (Fras et al., 2009) and are most coomon among members of the lower social class (Buzeti et al., 2011), indicating that CVDs risk factors are making a major contribution to health inequalities in the population. The project will enable Slovenian government to take further actions to reduce these bourdens. If project results will show that some populations in Slovenia are at risk due to high consumption of TFA, this will enable Slovenian Goverment to accept regulations, which can be stricter that overall EU policies. However, such national regulation would be considered as a limitation of the free movement of goods within the Community (the single market is defined in EU law) and this is only possible in exceptional cases, for example when there is a risk resulting from issues such as public health, environment, or consumer protection. Such approach to limit sale of foods high in TFAs was already taken by Danmark, Austria and Hungary and the ambition of this project is to provide all the data needed for appropriate policy decision. The results of investigations in the areas of public health and nutrition are an important long-term investment in the health of the population and will enable food security and the development of target interventions, reduce medical costs and increase productivity. Project will also have a direct impact for the economy: Project’s relevance for economy is proven by co-financing by slovenina biggest food retailer Mercator (11.8%), which seeks to limit TF content in foods in its assortment. The project results will directly support Mercator in developing internal procedures and adopting quality management policies to limit TFA levels in foods, contributing to its international competitiveness and ensuring healthier choices for consumers. Furthermore, project will support overall national economy, particularly the food industry. Use of low cost PHOs is enabling food producers to provide the market with cheap alternatives, and this present unfair competition to those producers, for example those located in Slovenia, which produce foods without the use of PHOs. Danish experience need to be noted here, showing that any food can be re-formulated in a way to exclude I-TF in a way that reformulated does not influence organoleptic acceptability of such a food to consumers.
Most important scientific results Final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report, final report
Views history