Say goodbye to trans fats

August 5, 2015 Providence Health Team

If you scan the nutrition labels on the packaged food you buy, you are probably familiar with trans fats.

Soon these artery-clogging fats will be one less thing to worry about.

The Federal Drug Administration has ruled that partially hydrogenated oils — the main source of industrially-produced trans fats — are no longer “generally recognized as safe.” Now the food industry must eliminate trans fats from its products by 2018, a move that is expected to prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks each year, according to the FDA.

Susan Mayne, the director of the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says the ban on trans fat is “based on the available scientific evidence and the findings of expert panels.”

Where they lurk

Industrially-produced trans fats are created during “hydrogenation,” a process used to turn liquid oils into solid fats in food manufacturing.

The FDA began requiring that trans fats be listed on nutrition labels in 2006. Over the years, many companies acted on their own to reduce or eliminate partially hydrogenated oils in their foods. But they can still be found in a variety of popular products, including:

  • Snack foods such as some microwave popcorn
  • Stick margarines
  • Baked goods such as cakes, cookies, frozen pies and crackers
  • Refrigerated dough products such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls
  • Ready-to-use frostings
  • Coffee creamers

The connection to heart health

Mayne says the FDA ruling on trans fat is in line with the agency’s goal of improving the health of Americans.

Trans fats have been used since the 1950s to add to the taste, texture and shelf life of processed foods. But studies have consistently linked trans fats to heart disease and higher levels of LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty plaque that can build up in your arteries and lead to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

While the food industry phases out trans fat over the next three years, continue to check the Nutrition Facts label on the foods you buy. If you are new to label checking, you can find trans fats listed under “Total Fat” and partially hydrogenated oils under “Ingredients.”

If you have questions about trans fats, or need advice about cutting them from your diet, talk to your health care provider or contact a Providence provider here.

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