(HealthDay News) — A new study suggests that not all trans fats are equal, and some might even be beneficial. The findings were published in the European Heart Journal.

For a government-funded study, researchers measured the concentrations of trans fats found in the membranes of red blood cells in participants in a long-term, ongoing study of 3,259 heart patients in Germany. 

During an average follow-up period of 10 years, 30% of the patients died. The investigators assessed the total concentrations of trans fats in each patient’s blood, and also identified concentrations of artificial vs. natural trans fats.

The researchers found that people with higher levels of naturally occurring trans fats were 37% less likely to suffer a sudden cardiac death, compared with those who had low levels of natural trans fats. The team also found that increased levels of artificial trans fats did not appear to increase a person’s mortality risk. 

However, the Germans in the study had levels of trans fats that were much lower than those typically found in Americans. Trans fats in the blood of the German study participants averaged just under 1%. By comparison, a recent study in the United States found that Americans have a 2.6% concentration of trans fats, on average, the study authors noted.

Senior study author Clemens von Schacky, MD, head of preventive cardiology at the University of Munich, told HealthDay that Germans’ low levels allowed researchers to properly assess the safety of small amounts of trans fats in people. 

“You could not have done the study we did in the United States,” he said. “However, in Germany, levels of industrially produced trans fats were low already years ago. Therefore, we could find out what that means.”


  1. Kleber ME, Delgado GE, Lorkowski S, März W, von Schacky C. Trans fatty acids and mortality in patients referred for coronary angiography: the Ludwigshafen Risk and Cardiovascular Health Study. Eur Heart J. 2015;doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehv446.