Ban on dangerous trans fats?
In an effort to prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease and up to 20,000 heart attacks annually, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it is moving towards banning trans fats commonly found in processed foods.
The FDA announced yesterday that it has started a formal review process to determine the safety of trans fats. If the substance is determined to be “not generally recognized as safe,” the agency will move toward a complete ban. The FDA is also assessing how a ban would impact businesses and how to “ensure a smooth transition,” according to an announcement on their website.
Trans fats have been used since the 1950s to add flavor and increase the shelf-life of foods like cookies, crackers, margarine and a host of snack foods. The FDA says the substance which comes from partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), builds up dangerous levels of plaque in the arteries which can lead to heart disease.
The FDA has been focused on the health dangers of trans fats since 1999 when it moved to require manufacturers to declare the amount of the substance on nutrition labels. The requirement took effect in 2006.
In the time it takes for the FDA to make a decision on the future of trans fats, it’s offering consumers advice on making the healthiest choices when it comes to foods currently on the market.
“The best thing to do is to consider the amounts of saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat,” said Dennis M. Keefe, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety. He says to choose products that have the lowest combined amount of these ingredients.
Nutrition experts have long warned of the danger of consuming trans fats.
Jaclyn Sprague, manager of nutrition services at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, says consumers need to be aware of the risks.
“A trans fat is a fancy name for man-made fat. It’s found in things like shortening and packaged foods,” Sprague says. “Trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils increase LDLs or low-density lipoproteins and decrease HDLs or high-density lipoproteins, which makes them bad for your cholesterol levels and may increase your risk of a heart attack.”
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