The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may issue a near-total ban on trans fats as early as this week, Politico reports. Foods contain trans fats if they list “partially hydrogenated oils” as an ingredient. It has been widely used in recent decades because it increases shelf life, enhances texture and helps food keep its color. However, it has been shown cause significant health problems. According to the American Heart Association, trans fats increase the risk fo heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes; they raise the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL).
The move to ban almost all trans fats stems from the Obama administration’s efforts to promote a healthier American diet. The ban may include very select exemptions, but most uses of trans fat as in ingredient will no longer be valid. The use of trans fat in food products has been reduced 85 percent over the past decade, and the ruling could reduce it even more.
According to Sam Kass, former senior adviser for nutrition at the White House and executive director of Let’s Move!, the FDA estimates that getting rid of trans fat can prevent 20,000 heart attacks 7,000 deaths. “This is a massive win for public health,” Kass said, according to Politico. “There are few targeted actions you can take in this space that have that kind of direct impact,”
Oreos, Cheetos and other popular foods in America have removed trans fat as an ingredient over the years. A number of other products still contain it; this includes foods such as Pop Secret microwave popcorn and Sarah Lee cheesecake.
Ironically, trans fats were developed in the 1950s in response to the negative perception of saturated fats, such as butter and lard, on health. Butter-like spreads,including margarine and Crisco, were developed as a result. These products then came under fire due to the use of partially hydrogenated oils and have been largely phased out. There are some naturally occurring trans fats in meat and dairy, but the FDA is only concerned with the industrial type that result from partially hydrogenated oils.