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

Project co-financed by


ARRSLogo 2016

Participating research organisations:

  • Nutrition Institute, Ljubljana (leading organisation)
  • Jozef Stefan Institute
  • National Institute of Public Health
  • University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty
  • University Medical Centre, Ljubljana


  • Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS - SRA) [SICRIS]
  • Ministry of Health of Republic of Slovenia (MZ)
  • Mercator d.d.

Project operation: 

  • 1.3.2016 - 31.8.2019


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. 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. The project’s overall hypothesis was 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. The project was 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). The selection of foods was made using an innovative approach of weighting based on 12-month sales data for each product. Fatty acid profiles were determined using the derivatisation of lipids to fatty acid methyl esters, followed by gas chromatography.

In the second WP, we investigated dietary intake of TFAs. While modelling provided first insights on this question, consideration of data of the national dietary survey Si.Menu will enable more reliable modelling to address different population groups. We also investigated historical changes in the TFA levels in human milk and determined, that TFA levels reduced notably.

In the third WP we quantified 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 was conducted in Slovenia, United Kingdom and Australia, using web panels. 

Key project result was also the impact on the development of food policy. Project generated important results even before it was finished, which showed the need for a regulatory approach for limiting the content of industrial trans fatty acids in foods. Project group supported the Government in the preparation of new national regulation: Decree laying down maximum permitted levels of trans fatty acids in foodstuffs (Ur.l. 18/2018, 20.3.2018). This regulation needed to be notified at the European Commission, because the introduced rules are stricter than current rules accepted in the EU. Project results were used in the notification procedure. Based on the successful notification procedure, new regulation will be applicable also for food businesses, which are producing foods outside Slovenia.


ABRAMOVIČ, Helena, VIDRIH, Rajko, ZLATIĆ, Emil, KOKALJ, Doris, SCHREINER, Matthias, ŽMITEK, Katja, KUŠAR, Anita, PRAVST, Igor. Trans fatty acids in margarines and shortenings in the food supply in Slovenia. Journal of food composition and analysis, ISSN 0889-1575, Dec. 2018, vol. 74, str. 53-61, doi: 10.1016/j.jfca.2018.08.007. [COBISS.SI-ID 4940152]

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Nutrition institute is engaged in research and education in the field of nutrition and advising the food industry in the formulation and labeling of foods. In the scope of the institute, research group Healthy Nutrition is established, which performs research on food and nutrition.