FDA to phase out trans fat

News that the FDA plans to eliminate artificial trans fats, which are found in many baked goods, and are said to be responsible for thousands of heart attacks and deaths, met with wide approval from nearly all health experts, including me. Unfortunately, results of a Pew poll and comments from some consumer groups suggest that many oppose the ban, with some seeing it as meddling too much in the food supply.

However, the bottom line is that, as the FDA says, “No amount of trans fat, no matter how small is safe.” The FDA estimates that 7,000 lives would be saved each year if trans fats and other partly hydrogenated oils were banned.

While trans fat, also called as partially hydrogenated oil, makes the food taste better, it can make good cholesterol go bad and bad cholesterol worse, and can make heart trouble for all.

CBS Evening News interviewed FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who pointedly said: “This action will save lives. The CDC estimates that if we can reduce the levels of trans fat currently in the American diet,” the US could prevent heart attacks and save lives.

The Washington Post says the move by the FDA is the “most aggressive efforts to limit Americans’ consumption of a specific food ingredient” aimed “at ending the era of trans fats altogether.” The Post provides specific numbers of heart attacks and deaths it can prevent, noting that the ban could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths due to heart disease every year. The Post says that though products containing trans fats have “increasingly disappeared from grocery stores and restaurant menus” over the past few years, they “still linger in an array of processed foods, including pancake mix, packaged cookies and ready-made frosting.”

The move to eliminate trans fat was hailed as “lifesaving” by health experts, says USA Today. The paper quotes FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg as saying, “There really is no safe level of consumption of trans fat.” Dean , a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, says these fats “increase the shelf life of foods but decrease the shelf life of humans.” Thomas , director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “5,000 Americans a year die of heart disease because artificial trans fat is in the food supply and another 15,000 will get heart disease.”

On its website, CBS News quotes Dr. David , a cardiologist with the Cleveland Clinic, who says that “trans fatty acids are added to processed foods as an inexpensive way to improve taste and texture and lengthen shelf life, but there are other ways of achieving these results that do not directly promote the development of heart disease.”

In a front-page article, the Wall Street Journal says an important moment in the history of trans fat was in middle of the last decade when the FDA mandated that food makers disclose trans fat in food products. The move led food makers to start using oils instead of trans fat, in a bid to stop noting the substance on the “Nutrition Facts” label, reports the Journal.

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