Medical Minute: Understanding Food Labels

Starting in 2006, food manufacturers will be required to reveal how much trans fat is contained in their products. Now, a look at how to translate confusing food labels to find these hidden fats and other diet pitfalls.

Hidden fats are lurking in your kitchen. Do you know how to find them? Nutritionist Kristin Bartholomew says start with the food label.

"The food label is an excellent tool for determining many different things when it comes to trying to be healthy, whether it's for heart healthy reasons or for weight loss," says Kristin.

Kristin is teaching Pam to translate confusing labels, including how to spot trans fats.

"One of the things we can look for is what they have; partially hydrogenated soybean oil here. The higher it is on the list, the more amounts of trans fats are likely to be in the product."

Kristin also says watch out for serving sizes.

"Serving size is one-quarter of a second of spray, so how many people hold it for a quarter of a second?"

Also, beware of misleading claims. "Sugar-free" products are often high in fat, and foods can be labeled fat-free but still contain up to point five grams of fat per serving.

"When you look at the fat-free, many people think that, 'Oh, I can eat more of it,' and that's where we really find a problem, because then they're more likely to double and triple those serving sizes because they think, 'Heck, I can eat more!'"

"I think, as consumers, we just totally rely on what is on that label," says Pam Jakobsen a heart disease patient.

For Pam, relying on that label could put her life at risk. Eighteen years ago, at age 30, Pam had quintuple bypass heart surgery.

"Oh, it was a major, major shock. I didn't have a clue, didn't have a clue," she says.

For more information, contact:

American Dietetic Association
(800) 877-1600

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