Processed sweets the main culprit



Marc Bence/For Metro Edmonton


Dietitian Karmin Hovde looks over common food items containing trans and saturated fats yesterday at the University of Alberta Hospital. New research at the U of A has discovered that trans and saturated fats, already known to clog arteries, also increase the severity of a heart attack.


A poor diet glazed with doughnuts and pastries has long been known as a precursor for heart attacks, but researchers at the University of Alberta now believe fatty foods also increase the severity of an attack by disrupting the heart’s normal beat and rhythm.

Dr. Peter Light, a pharmacologist and researcher, has identified the cellular mechanisms that can make a heart attack worse, heightened by a diet laced in trans fats found in fast foods.

He discovered that these bad fats cause calcium to flood into cells during a heart attack, and this increase disrupts electrical signals in the heart, causing irregular rhythms and damage.

“Not only are you going to be at a greater risk of having a heart attack with trans fats and saturated fats, but if you do have the heart attack, then the damage your heart sustains may be worse and your recovery may be reduced,” he says.

His research is published in the European Molecular Biology Organization Journal.

While drug treatments are being developed that could reduce this impact, Light is hoping his research will convince more people to eat a healthier diet to prevent the onset of a devastating heart attack.

“It is a preventable thing,” he says. “You can reduce the level of trans and saturated fats in your diet fairly easily.”

“You’ll find a lot of trans fats in things like doughnuts and pastries, a cup of noodles, popcorn, and all sorts of things that you’ll find in grocery stores,” Clinical dietitian Karmin Hovde says.

A typical cup of noodles contains at least 5 grams of trans fat — more than double the daily-recommended intake — and she recommends avoiding them as much as possible.

Saturated fats found in cheese and dairy products aren’t quite as bad as trans fats, but experts still recommend reducing their intake.

Trim the … expiry date?

  • Clinical dietitian Karmin Hovde says trans fats are a favourite among many food manufacturers since they create a product with a longer shelf life.