Transfats are Not Detectable in American Peanut Butter and Snack Peanuts
Your feature entitled "TFAs, the Food Industry's Trojan Horse on Your Table" which appeared online in OpEdNews on 26 September has been called to my attention. I am replying to correct your statements about trans fatty acids (TFA) in American peanut butter and roasted peanuts. Your claim that TFAs are "commonly found" in peanut butter and snack peanuts is not correct according to research carried out for the US Department of Agriculture in 2001.
A report on the study by Dr Tim Sanders of North Caroline State University can be found at this link: USDA Agricultural Research Service, Food and Nutrition Research Briefs, July 2001 (URL: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/np/fnrb/fnrb701.htm#trans ) and I have copied the textin below for your convenience.
"No Trans Fats in Peanut Butter-Contrary to Rumor"
"Recurring rumors that commercial peanut butters contain trans fats-which appear to increase risk of cardiovascular disease-have no basis in fact, a new study shows. The rumors no doubt started because small amounts of hydrogenated vegetable oils are added to commercial peanut butters-at 1 to 2 percent of total weight-to prevent the peanut oil from separating out. And the hydrogenation process can generate the formation of trans fatty acids
"To see if the rumors had any validity, an ARS researcher prepared 11 brands of peanut butter, including major store brands and "natural" brands, for analysis by a commercial laboratory. He also sent paste freshly prepared from roasted peanuts for comparison. The laboratory found no detectable trans fats in any of the samples, with a detection limit of 0.01 percent of the sample weight, the researcher reported in the Journal of Agricultural
and Food Chemistry, 2001 (vol. 49, pp. 2349-2351). "
labels to disclose trans fat levels, they do require disclosure of saturated fat levels at or above five-tenths (0.5) of a gram. For comparison, that's 156 times higher than this study's detection limit for trans fats. By contrast, peanut butter has plenty of unsaturated fatty acids. The most abundant is oleic acid, the monounsaturated fat believed to be good for the cardiovascular system. In this analysis, oleic acid levels ranged from 19 percent of total weight in one private-label brand to 27 percent in one "natural" type. Palmitic acid, the most abundant saturated fatty acid,
weighed in at about 5 percent among all brands."
From this study you can see that peanut butter is an exception to the rule of thumb that says if partially hydrogenated oil is present in the ingredient list, the product contains trans fat. The USDA findings show that both natural and commercial peanut butters, including all major brand names, contain an undetectable amount of trans fat. Since the study was done, of course, transfat declaration has become compulsory. Peanut butter is therefore able to declare "zero grams transfat" on its label as the presence of small amounts of partially hydrogenated oils to prevent separation have no negative health implications for consumers.
The good news is that over 75% of the fat in peanut butter is the unsaturated, heart-healthy kind (both mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids). As with all plant foods, peanut butter contains no cholesterol. Peanut butter is a good source of niacin, folic acid, phosphorous, and vitamin E. Peanut products also contain significant amounts of phytosterols thought to protect against heart disease and cancer.
I hope you will find this information of interest. The American Peanut Council would be delighted to assist you further if you wished to write another feature setting this matter straight for your readers and including highlights from the considerable recent nutritional research literature on the health benefits of regular consumption peanuts and peanut butter as part of a healthful diet.
American Peanut Council
American Peanut Council
1500 King Street, Suite 301
Alexandria, VA 22314