Good Bye Trans Fats
The amount of trans fat being put in our food has declined by more than 50 percent since about 2005. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that it will require the food industry to gradually phase out all trans fats, saying they are a threat to people's health. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths.
Hamburg said that while the amount of trans fats in the country's diet has declined dramatically in the last decade, they "remain an area of significant public health concern." The trans fats have been criticized for a number of years.
To phase them out, the FDA said it had made a preliminary determination that trans fats no longer fall in the agency's "generally recognized as safe" category, which is reserved for thousands of additives that manufacturers can add to foods without FDA review. Once trans fats are off the list, anyone who wants to use them would have to petition the agency for a regulation allowing it, and that would be unlikely to be approved.
Trans fat is widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fat, which can also contribute to heart disease. Trans fats are used both in processed food and in restaurants, often to improve the texture, shelf life or flavor of foods. They are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called partially hydrogenated oils.
Scientists say there are no health benefits to trans fats, and they can raise so-called "bad" cholesterols, increasing the risk of heart disease — the leading cause of death in the United States.
Though they have been removed from many items, the fats are still found in processed foods, including some microwave popcorns and frozen pizzas, refrigerated doughs and ready-to-use frostings. They are also sometimes used by restaurants that use the fats for frying.