Trans Fats No Longer Considered Safe
In November 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed partially hydrogenated oils (the major source of trans fats) from the GRAS (Generally recognized as safe) list. Since trans fats are considered to be the “worst” type of fat as they have great artery clogging potential, this move makes sense. The FDA has not yet banned the fats however, which will hopefully be the next step.
What are Trans Fats?
Artificial trans fat is a man made type of fat. It is made by adding hydrogen gas to liquid oils, resulting in a solid or semi-solid product. These fats helped to improve shelf life of foods, as well as texture and flavor. For better than 50 years these fats were thought to be healthier than their nonhydrogenated counterparts.
How they effect the body
Trans fats have been shown to increase LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), which can increase risk for heart disease. They also decrease HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol that lowers risk for heart disease), making eating them a double whammy for heart problems.
Labeling Trans Fats – FDA Moves Slowly
By the 1990’s, the scientific community had solid and irrefutable evidence that consumption of trans fats were a major contributor to and cause of heart disease. In 1994, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned for labeling of these fats (adding them to the Nutrition Facts label). The FDA did not mandate this labeling until 2003, and gave food companies until 2006 to start adding them to the Nutrition Facts Label.
In 2006, it was estimated that some 30,000 to 100,000 deaths from heart disease were caused by eating trans fats each year. (1) The delay in the labeling of trans fats contributed to these deaths as consumers may have had difficulty discerning from the food label if their foods contained them or not.
Since 2006, when the trans fat labeling law went into effect, many food manufacturers and restaurants have changed their product recipes to eliminate trans fats. This also resulted in a reduction in the saturated fat levels of many foods (another type of artery clogging fat).
Removing Trans Fats will take time
If the FDA does decide to ban trans fats, removing them from our food supply will take some time. In the meantime, consumers need to read food labels and ingredients to avoid this potentially harmful type of fats.
Trans fats are generally found in foods like frozen pies, frozen pizzas, cookie dough, frosting, crackers, biscuits, baked goods, fried foods, and microwave popcorn to name a few. Some restaurants also use trans fats to improve flavor or cut costs, and some use prepackaged foods that have trans fats in them already (usually in fried foods, frozen foods, and baked goods).
Decoding Food Labels for Trans Fats
Trans fats are on the Nutrition Facts Label under the Fats section. However identifying a food has 0 grams of trans fats may be deceiving, thanks to food labeling laws which have allowed foods with 0 to 0.49g of trans fats per serving to be labeled as 0. Since the daily maximum intake of trans fats should be no more than 2 grams per day, eating several servings of foods that have even small amounts in them will add up quickly! Consumers need to read the ingredient list, and search for “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” oils. If a food contains those oils, it contains trans fats.
- Zaloga GP, Harvey KA, Stillwell W, Siddiqui R. Trans fatty acids and coronary heart disease. Nutr Clin Pract. 2006;21(5):505-512.
- Amidor, Toby. “Banning Trans Fats.”Today’s Dietitian 1 Mar. 2014: 9. Print.
Tracey is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Plattsburgh, NY. She enjoys cooking healthy recipes for her family, and loves involving her daughter in the process. On her blog, she shares meal prep ideas, healthy recipes, nutrition tips and even gardening tips (to help you eat more whole foods). Check out her social media sites for more great tips.