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Published on December 11, 2013

FDA Plans to Ban Trans Fats

The FDA has a new arch-nemesis. The villain? Trans fats. 

After determining that trans fats, a.k.a. partially hydrogenated oils, can lead to harmful health effects in those who consume it, the FDA announced it intends to prohibit the use of trans fats in all food items.

Trans fat, also known as partially hydrogenated oil, is formed when hydrogen is added to liquid oils to turn it into a solid fat, and it’s found in foods such as margarine, microwave popcorn, and commercially baked goods. While it’s been used in America for almost a century to increase shelf life and boost the flavor of foods, research over its detrimental health effects has raised public concern in not only the U.S., but also all around the world. Countries including Brazil, Costa Rica, Denmark, the Netherlands, and South Korea are also working on reducing artificial trans fats—a move which the World Health Organization fully supports.

Although many American food manufactures have already taken action to remove or reduce trans fats from their products, current FDA regulations allow companies to claim their food has zero grams of the artificial fat if it contains less than 0.5 grams of it per serving. Trans fats can also be naturally found in meat and dairy products, but the FDA is only seeking out to ban partially hydrogenated oils. 

So what’s the problem with trans fats? A number of studies have shown that trans fats can increase the production of bad, or LDL, cholesterol. And as LDL cholesterol levels rise, it can cause fatty deposits, or plaque, to build up along the walls of the arteries, which ultimately decreases blood flow. When this happens, a person becomes more at risk for heart disease, stroke, inflammation and other types of health conditions.

Currently, researchers predict that eliminating trans fats can prevent up to 10,000 to 20,000 heart attacks and 3,000 to 7,000 coronary heart disease deaths each year, which is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the country.

Since it is uncertain exactly when trans fats will be phased out from food products, here are some tips to help you make healthier food choices now:

  • Even if a food product says “0 grams trans fat!” on the front, it may still contain small traces of it. Avoid any products that contain the ingredient ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,’ which you should be able to find under the nutrition label. 
  • Keep trans fat consumption as low as possible. As of now, there’s no recommended daily limit for trans fats. The American Heart Association does, however, recommend you consume no more than one percent of your total daily calories (e.g. If you consume 2,000 calories a day, you can have two grams of trans fat or less, which is equivalent to 20 calories).
  • Aim for healthy fats. You still need to consume fats to maintain a healthy diet. Monosaturated fats, which can be found in olive, peanut, and canola oils, are a healthier option than saturated fats, which can increase cholesterol levels. You can also find monosaturated fats in products with omega-3 fatty acids, such as nuts and fish.

Crozer-Keystone Health System provides full-service nutrition centers at its four hospitals, and is committed to the special dietary needs of its patients. For more information about Crozer-Keystone’s nutrition services, including contact information, please visit here.

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