FDA Ban on Trans Fat
Last week, it was announced that the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of trans fats in the food industry. The FDA condemned the artificial fat as a ‘threat to public health.’ This announcement has brought up a lot of questions regarding the ban such as: What are trans fats and why are they so bad for our health? How long will it take for manufacturers to stop using trans fats and which foods can I eat or substitute as a healthy alternative until the use of trans fats is completely eliminated?
In recent years, as Americans have become more conscious of their diets and reading food labels, ingredients such as trans fats acted as a deterrent for certain brands and products which were known to use them. By taking note of the public action, many manufacturers downsized or even eliminated the ingredient from their food products. The recent FDA ban will require all food manufacturers to not just decrease their usage, but completely eliminate the ingredient altogether from all of their products. *Note: Not all trans fats are manufactured; small amounts can naturally occur in beef, full-fat dairy products and lamb.
Created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to create a solid through a process called hydrogenation, trans fats are also referred to as partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fat was originally created to act as a flavor enhancer and additive that would increase the shelf life of processed foods such as frozen pizza, cookies, pre-mixed cake mixes, etc. Though they may make taste buds sing, trans fat has been found to be more harmful to one’s health than originally thought.
Trans fat raises the body’s LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), triglyceride and lipoprotein blood levels, while simultaneously lowers HDL (‘good ‘cholesterol) levels. Click here to learn more about cholesterol levels. When the body has elevated LDL levels and lowered HDL levels, the risk for developing heart disease increases substantially. Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women…much of the developed disease could potentially lead back to levels of trans fats consumed. High LDL levels also can cause atherosclerosis which is the accumulation of fatty deposits on the walls of your arteries. After time and build-up, the coronary arteries (arteries that supply blood to the heart) can become too congested and can eventually lead to coronary artery disease, blood clots, heart attack or stroke.
The ban is not expected to create that much unwillingness and disruption to the general public. According to the FDA, the intake of trans fat declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to just one gram in 2012.
“While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decade in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” said FDA Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg.
Currently, food manufacturers substitute foods they claim to be trans fat free with other ingredients such as tropical oils (coconut and palm) which contain a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat, like trans fat, raises LDL levels and too much could lead to big health concerns. That is not to say that one should completely eliminate all fats from their diet. In fact, a healthy diet includes some fat, however there are limits. According to the Mayo Clinic, 25 to 35 percent of one’s total daily calories can come from fat. However, less than ten percent of the daily total should consist of saturated fat.
Oils that are monounsaturated, such as olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil are healthier alternatives to saturated and trans fats. Foods such as fish and nuts and others that contain unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are healthier and wiser choices.
The FDA ban and new rules to regulate the replacement of ingredients will not happen overnight. Manufacturers that will need to find substitutes are going to work with the FDA on differing time schedules as to when the substitutes are researched, found, tested and then implemented.
Special interest and advocacy groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest have been working for the elimination of trans fat for over a decade and believe this ruling is ‘a long time coming.’ The group’s director, Michael Jacobson stated the ban is “one of the most important life saving actions the FDA could take.”
As quoted by the Associated Press, Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods stated, “We want to do it [discontinue use of trans fat] in a way that doesn’t unduly disrupt markets. The industry has demonstrated that it is, by and large, feasible to do so.”
“Six months or a year should be more than enough time,” said Jacobson, “especially considering that companies have had a decade to figure out what to do.”
Following in the footsteps of countries such as Switzerland and Denmark, the FDA ban on trans fat will only help Americans and the food choices we make to have a happier and healthier future.
To read further into the FDA ban of trans fat, here are some links:
- CNN Opinion ‘Goodbye and good riddance, trans fats’
- American Heart Association ‘Trans Fats’
- Mayo Clinic ‘Trans Fat is double trouble for your heart health’
Disclaimer: The Escali Blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. more