02/08/2012 12:52 pm ET

Americans' Trans Fat Levels Dropped Over Last Decade: Report

The amount of trans-fatty acid -- also known as trans fat, which raises levels of "bad" cholesterol" and lowers levels of "good" cholesterol -- has decreased in the blood of the U.S. population over the last decade, according to a new government report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that trans fat blood levels decreased by 58 percent from 2000 to 2009, according to the report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers noted that during the time period of the study, the government also took steps to make the public aware of the dangers of trans fats. For example, the Food and Drug Administration had a regulation that was put into action in 2006 that required food and dietary supplement manufacturers to say how many trans fatty acids were in the products in the Nutrition Facts.

In addition, some health departments also took steps to limit trans fats in local and state restaurant food, researchers said.

"The 58 percent decline shows substantial progress that should help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in adults," Christopher Portier, Ph.D., director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, said in a statement. "Findings from the CDC study demonstrate the effectiveness of these efforts in reducing blood TFAs and highlight that further reductions in the levels of trans fats must remain an important public health goal."

Researchers conducted the study by taking blood samples from 229 people in 2000 and 292 people in 2009, LiveScience reported. Because the samples were only taken from white adults and not from other ethnic groups, more research is needed to see if the blood trans-fat levels are different among different groups.

The results "encourage us to really look for other population subgroups," study researcher Hubert Vesper, of the CDC, told the Wall Street Journal. "We're working on other races and ethnicities to get a comprehensive picture."

Trans fats are usually found in foods like cookies, cakes, doughnuts and french fries, as well as some shortenings and margarines, the Mayo Clinic explained. Because of trans fat's bad effect on cholesterol, it could contribute to heart disease risk.

A study published late last year also in the journal Neurology showed that there may be a link between high trans fat blood levels and decreased cognitive performance.

"It's clear that trans fats are bad -- both for your heart and now, we see, for your brain," the researcher of that study, Oregon Health & Science University's Dr. Gene Bowman, earlier told HuffPost. "So I would recommend that people stay away from all trans fats. If you aren't sure whether something has them, just look at the ingredients; if there's vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated anything ... just put it down. That's the big message here."

Earlier this month, Colorado considered a bill that would ban trans fats in school cafeteria food, school vending machines and even bake sales, the Associated Press reported. The bill would make Colorado the only state to not only ban trans fat in cafeterias -- which some states do already -- but also in before- and after-school foods.

So how do we steer clear of foods with trans fats? Check out HuffPost partner Health.com's list of 22 foods that could contain trans fats: