FDA begins push to eliminate trans fats

Donuts are known to contain trans fat. Credit: Metro File
Doughnuts are known to contain trans fats.
Credit: Metro File

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration ruled that partially hydrogenated oils, which are often found in trans fats, are not “generally recognized as safe,” as previously thought.

The move could lead to an eventual phase-out of trans fats, which are known to raise the risk of stroke, heart disease and Type II diabetes.

Trans fats are found in many convenience foods, like doughnuts, muffins and packaged snacks. They’re also commonly found in fast food. Food producers like them because they’re “cheap and easy to use,” says Rachel Berman, a registered nurse and the health content manager of About.com.

The phaseout begins with a 60-day review period during which food manufacturers and lobbyists will have the opportunity to defend using trans fats in their products. They’ll also use the time to research ways to make their products without trans fats.

Trans fat is man-made and was initially introduced as a healthier alternative to saturated fats. In the 1990s, researchers started saying that the opposite was true — and that trans fat raises bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers good cholesterol (HDL).

The FDA says that Americans’ consumption of trans fats has decreased over the last decade, from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about a gram a day in 2012. Berman hopes the new initiative further slows our reliance on it.

“We don’t really need trans fat — it’s not providing any benefit to us at all,” she says, adding that health care costs could decrease as a result of people consuming less trans fat. “I think that education only goes so far, but this is a great step by the government to make a change for the benefit of our food supply.”


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