Sources and Intakes

The main sources of trans fatty acids in the UK diet are cereal-based products (providing 27% of total trans fatty acid intake), margarines, spreads, and frying oils (22%), meat and meat products (18%), and milk, butter, and cheese (16%). In the USA, the main sources of intake are baked goods (28%), fried foods (25%), margarine, spreads, and shortenings (25%), savory snacks (10%), and milk and butter (9%).

Typical ranges of trans fatty acids in foods are shown in Table 2. Trans isomers of C18:1 (elaidic acid) are the most common trans fatty acids, accounting for 65% of the total trans fatty acids in the UK diet.

Intakes of trans fatty acids are difficult to assess because of:

• analytical inaccuracies;

• difficulties of obtaining reliable information about food intake.

A number of countries have attempted to assess intakes of trans fatty acids (Table 3). Reliable intake data are available for the UK, based on a 7-day weighed intake of foods eaten both inside and outside the home, for 2000 adults aged 16-64 years (Table 3). Data from the UK National Food Survey,

Table 1 Analytical methods for trans fatty acids

General method




Infrared (IR) absorption

Total trans unsaturation

Inexpensive; reliable results

Unreliable results if


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