FDA Decision Aims to Eliminate Trans Fat From Your Food

Partially hydrogenated oils found in fried, processed food

fries and ketchup on plate

Everyone agrees: trans fat is unhealthy. Now federal regulators are taking steps to eliminate it from our diet completely.

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In three years, food manufacturers will have to phase out artificial trans fats from their products, under guidelines announced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA says scientific research is overwhelming that consumption of trans fats pose health risks that contribute to heart disease and deems partially hydrogenated oils as no longer generally recognized as safe for use in food for humans.

“This decision will completely makeover what the grocery store shelves look like,” says cardiologist Steven Nissen, MD. “It’s going to change what Americans eat.”

Partially hydrogenated oils are the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat. They are found in fried foods prepared in restaurants and in processed foods such as baked goods, peanut butter and candy.

The FDA says it has seen no data that proves that even low levels of partially hydrogenated oils are safe. Regulators say their goal is to significantly reduce the use of partially hydrogenated oils in the food supply.

Taking steps to make food free of trans fat

Food manufacturers have been required to include trans fat content information on food labels since 2006, which has resulted in a drastic reduction of trans fat consumption. It wasn’t enough to eliminate it from our diet, though.

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Americans still consume 1.3 grams of artificial trans fat each day despite the label changes, restaurant restrictions and industry-wide efforts, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 22 percent of Americans  still consume trans fats. To prevent chronic illness, including heart disease, consumption of trans fat needs to be as low as possible.

Consuming trans fat increases levels of “bad” cholesterol, a major risk factor in the leading cause of death in the United States: heart disease. The fatty build-up of trans fat clogs arteries, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Trans fat consumption also has been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Since only one in five Americans live in an area where policies are in place to limit the use of trans fat in food production, consumption of trans fats still is a major public health issue.

Food manufacturers will have three years to either reformulate products without partially hydrogenated oils or else they will have to petition the FDA to seek permission to use them. After three years, no human food will contain partially hydrogenated oils without FDA approval.

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“We are likely to see a decrease in the number of heart attacks in patients in the United States over a period of time by a substantial amount,” Dr. Nissen says.

You can help eliminate your trans fat intake, too

In the meantime, everyone can take responsibility to limit their consumption of trans fat. Here are some tips:

  • Choose food products with zero grams of trans fat. Remember that by law, food manufacturers can claim a food product is zero grams trans fat if it has less than 0.5 grams, so check the ingredient list too.
  • Use canola or olive oil in recipes that call for fat.
  • Eat a balanced diet full of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and fish.
  • Choose restaurants that do not cook with partially hydrogenated oils.

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